ISLAMABAD: Amid the third wave of coronavirus in the country, the government and clerics in a meeting on Tuesday agreed on a number of conditions and guidelines set for prayers’ congregations during the upcoming month of Ramazan.
The online consultation meeting with the ulema and government functionaries was chaired by President Dr Arif Alvi, with governors of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan as well as chief secretary of Azad Jammu and Kashmir in attendance from their respective areas.
While the government relaxed some restrictions such as allowing aitekaf in mosques and Imambargahs with strict observance of SOPs and three-foot distance instead of six feet between worshipers, clerics were forewarned of stern action in case of any violation of the standard operating procedures.
Senior ulema at all the stations belonging to all the four mainstream sects in the country took part in the consultation.
Mass arrangements for Sehr, Iftar at mosques prohibited
The president discussed with ulema the situation arising out of the Covid-19 pandemic and sought their cooperation in creating awareness among the masses about the disease.
Unlike last year, the pre-Ramazan meeting witnessed negligible resistance from the clerics, as the serious opposition in a similar meeting held last year was from the then chairman of Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman.
The incumbent chairman of Ruet-i-Hilal Committee, Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, not only participated in the online meeting but also suggested that clerics should promote vaccination drive and observe the first Friday of the holy month as day for seeking freedom from the pandemic.
“I am sure that everybody was aware of the serious situation and no one will disobey the SOPs devised by the health experts,” said Maulana Azad while talking to Dawn.
A senior cleric who participated in the meeting said: “The participants were told by officials that all the provinces and federal government have agreed to take stern action not only against the violators but also against those who instigate such violations.”
The meeting decided that the managements of mosques and Imambargahs, imams and khateebs would cooperate with the police and local administration to ensure implementation of the SOPs.
The SOPs unanimously approved in the meeting stated that there would be no carpets or floor mats in mosques and Imambargahs and prayers would be offered on the floor.
For prayers in mosques, people have been advised to perform ablution at home and wash hands with soap for 20 seconds. They have been asked to avoid gatherings before and after prayers. In mosques and Imambargahs where there are courtyards, prayers should preferably be offered in the courtyard and not inside the hall.
Minors, elderly people aged above 60 and those suffering from cold, cough and flu should not join congregations.
The management of each mosque and Imambargah should form a committee comprising responsible persons to guide and ensure implementation of precautionary measures.
During visit to mosques and Imambargahs, wearing mask is obligatory while handshake has been prohibited.
Collective arrangements for Sehr and Iftar at mosques and Imambargahs will not be allowed.
The government also informed the clerics that during the month of Ramazan the government could reconsider the measures if precautions were not followed or the number of victims increased to dangerous levels. The government may also change instructions or policy for the areas severely affected by the pandemic.
Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021