Several mosques remained opened on Friday (April 3) across Pakistan and people offered prayers there despite a government ban on big congregational gatherings in order to curb the spread of coronavirus that has killed 37 people and infected nearly 2,500 others in the country.
The Sindh government had announced curfew like restriction from 12 noon to 3 PM to stop people from visiting mosques, while the Punjab government had issued fatwa for people to offer prayer in their homes. Similar instructions were issued by other provinces and the federal government.
The mosques made announcement urging people to pray at home, but some people defied the instruction and visited mosques, according to reports. Some clerics also encouraged people to attend prayers in mosques.
“The government and police are making statements to create a sense of fear. Nothing will happen. Karachi is a city of 20 million, the government cannot implement its decision in every nook and cranny, the prayer leader of the Jamia Mosque Quba told The Express Tribune.
A heavy contingent of police and Rangers personnel were also deployed in front of the New Memon Mosque and some other areas in Karachi.
Reports from different areas of Karachi suggested that the majority of mosques followed government orders, however, some continued to hold regular prayers.
“Baitul Mukarram Mosque is in front of my home. It was closed, so we prayed afternoon prayers at home,” Rizwan Siddiqui, who lives in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, told the paper.
“We were only five people at the mosque praying. We had already informed the areas citizenry not to attend Friday prayers as there is a ban on crowds assembling,” said Qari Abdul Basit of Siddique Akbar Mosque in the Akhtar Colony locality.
In other towns and cities of the province, including Sukkur, Larkana, Hyderabad and Mirpurkha’s divisions, the doors of most of the mosques were locked with only four to five people, including the prayer leader, allowed to pray.
But in rural areas, especially in villages, the ban could not be implemented.
“We have offered Friday prayers in our Jamia mosque with the same crowd,” said Abdul Hanan, who lives in a village in the Kamber Shahdadkot district.
The situation in Balochistan was not much different. A big crowd came to attend Friday prayers in Qandhari mosque of provincial capital Quetta, located near a police station.
In other areas of the province. most of the mosques were open, but attendance was low.
In Punjab, announcements were made from mosques urging the people to pray at homes.
In cities, the orders were mostly followed but the situation in the rural areas was different as people came out in big numbers to offer prayers.
Officials said that it was not easy to stop people from visiting mosques unless they willingly cooperate.
Dar ul Iftah Jamia Naeemia, an Islamic university in Lahore, issued a fatwa (religious edict) saying that people who are stopped by the government from coming to mosques were not obliged to perform the prayers in congregation.
There were reports of confrontation between police and people on the issue of going to mosques. People gathered near Ghousia Mosque in Liaquatabad area of Karachi and pelted stones at police when stopped from entering the mosque.
Police said that the official vehicle of local Station House Officer was slightly damaged in the attack.
Last week, the Grand Imam Shaikh of Egypt’s Jamia Al Azhar, an authority on Islamic injunctions, and the Supreme Council in Egypt, issued a fatwa (religious edict) on the request of Pakistan President Dr Arif Alvi, empowering the head of the state to suspend Friday prayers in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.
Alvi had asked clerics in Pakistan to act as per the principles of Islam from Quran and Sunnah, and said it purely Islamic to cancel Friday prayers over coronavirus concerns, The News reported.
In several Arab countries, the azaan (call for prayer) has been amended and now it urges people to pray in their homes.