New Delhi: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, several mosques across India are planning to adopt “precautionary measures” for the upcoming Friday prayers, with some even calling off the prayers.
The Friday Jumah prayers have traditionally seen massive footfall, with Muslims thronging mosques for prayers to be offered in congregation.
But with the government calling for social distancing to prevent the spread of the virus, here are some of the ways in which mosques in various states are planning to conduct the Friday prayers.
At least two mosques in Kozhikode have called off all prayers, including Friday prayers. These include the Pattala Palli mosque and Othayamangalam Palli mosque.
“We have made sure all people, especially older people who usually come to the mosque, are made aware of the perils of social gatherings right now. To ensure proper safety, we have called off the prayers completely,” T.P.M. Sahir, former MLA from Kozhikode and president of Pattala Palli mosque, told ThePrint.
The Samastha Kerala Jamiyyathul Ulama, one of the largest Muslim bodies in Kerala, has said every mosque needs to try and adopt measures in line with the government advisories.
“For smaller mosques, which would usually have five rows during prayers, we have asked them to limit it to two rows. This would mean fewer people and lesser contact,” said Ali Kutty Musliyar, general secretary of the organisation.
He said whoever can, should pray at their homes. “However, if someone comes to a mosque to pray, they can’t be turned away.” he added.
Delhi’s Jama Masjid, however, said they would go ahead with the Friday prayers as usual.
“No decision on suspension of prayers has been made yet,” Amanullah Khan, the mosque’s spokesperson, told ThePrint. He added that announcements pertaining to taking precautions are being made continuously.
“People are repeatedly being asked to wash their hands, use sanitisers and maintain distance. We have also asked them to use different gates and not congest one or two gates,” Khan said.
On Wednesday, Imam Bukhari issued an appeal, saying: “… people, leaders, civilised society… and religious establishments should, without hesitation, become part of the precautionary and prevention movement launched by the governments and contribute to them at their best.”
The Delhi Waqf Board has said it has advised all mosques to take necessary precautions, but cannot ask them to call off the prayers.
“As a government body, we can only ask the mosques to make sure people are aware. The decision to call off prayers rests on the shoulders of religious bodies. It’s their discretion, not ours,” Basit Ali, media coordinator of the Delhi Waqf Board, told ThePrint.
Jammu and Kashmir
In Jammu and Kashmir, heads of all religious bodies will be meeting Saturday to discuss the issue of Friday prayers.
Prayers this Friday, therefore, will continue as usual.
Jammu and Kashmir Grand Mufti Nasir-ul-Islam, however, said people who think they can maintain required hygiene to pray at mosques should go ahead but those who think otherwise can avoid.
“Our Holy Prophet has said that in times such as these, one needs to take all precautions. Muslims who pray five times cleanse themselves on multiple occasions during the day. Still there is a tremendous need to be extra cautious,” he said.
“For those who think they can maintain hygiene should wear face masks before going for Friday prayers tomorrow. Sick people must avoid, the elderly should take extra precaution. The congregations tomorrow will be short. Once heads of all religious bodies meet on Saturday, a consensus will be arrived and shared with the public. For now Friday prayers will happen as scheduled,” he told ThePrint.
Islam added the Mirwaiz of Kashmir, Umar Farooq, had called him and asked him to issue a decree on Friday prayers.
“However I told him any decision by me might be acceptable to some and unacceptable to others. This would have created confusion. So a meeting will take place on Saturday which will also have representation from the Mirwaiz,” Islam said.
On Thursday evening, the Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadith, a socio-religious organisation, issued a statement, asking its followers to put Friday prayers on hold and added that many Muslim-majority nations have done the same.
The socio-religious organisations, who will attend the Saturday meeting, are Karwan-e-Islam, Jamiat-e-Ahlihadith, Anjuman-e-Himayatul Islam, Islamic Study Circle, Anjuman-e-Share Shian and representatives of the Mirwaiz, who heads the powerful Jama Masjid of Srinagar.
The Karnataka Waqf board has issued a list of advisories for all mosques and dargahs across the state to follow during the Friday prayers.
The board has asked the mosques to cut down the entire prayer time and speed up the process.
“Heads of masjids and Imams are requested to conclude the entire Jumah congregation in 15 minutes for the next three weeks and avoid using public microphones for the Jumah khutbah (sermon) and salah (prayer),” the advisory stated.
The entire Friday prayer, including the sermon, can take up to half-an-hour, on an average.
Another advisory by the board cites precautions taken by “Islamic countries” as an example to follow.
“Most of the Islamic countries have also taken a number of steps for the control of the corona (virus) epidemic with respect to offering congregational prayer,” it stated.
The advisory also asked mosques to avoid keeping caps and towels within their premises.
“The persons suffering from respiratory or immunity-related issues are requested to avoid coming into public places, and in particular masjid, madrasas and dargahs,” the advisory added.
According to the Health Ministry, the number of novel coronavirus cases in India has climbed to 173.
So far, four people have died of COVID-19 in the country.