The government instruction for performing prayers at home is not being followed in most of the religious institutions, especially in the mosques. Public Health experts warned that if the devotees continuously violate the government’s instruction regarding maintaining social distancing, the nation may see the peak of coronavirus infection soon.
Devotees not only in the mosques, but also in temples, pagodas and churches are making gathering to complete their prayers giving a apparent challenge to the law enforcers. Admitting some incidents of violating government instructions by some devotees, officials of law enforcing agencies on condition of anonymity said, due to high religious sensitivity, they cannot take action against these desperate devotees.
Talking to this correspondent, Hafez Qari Abdur Rahman, Imam of a mosque at Dhamrai Upazila in Dhaka said, “I am working as Imam at this mosque for last five years. I always try to make aware of the local devotees about the latest government’s instruction of maximum ten people at Tarabi prayer. But no one pay heed to my request.”
Responding to a question, he said, “At our mosque, around twenty five people attend Tarabi prayer every day.” Mohammad Rafiq from Basat village under Saturia Upazila of Manikganj district said, “Many young people still gathering at playground, bank of river and intersection of village roads. But when we, some devotees, go to mosque only for prayer, it becomes a problem for you.”
He said, “We are performing Tarabi at our mosque keeping very safe distance.” Maolana Edris, Imam at Paragram Mosque of Saturia in Manikganj claimed that they are following government’s instruction regarding Tarabi prayer. Responding to a question, he however, said, “It would be very appreciating, if government allows devotees to attend Tarabi prayers considering the Holy Months of Ramadan.”
He said, “As Almighty Allah detains Satan on the occasion of Holy Ramadan, the trends of performing prayers significantly increased.” ASP Sujoy Sarker, assistant director of the RAB's Legal and Media wing said, “It is not possible to use force entering the mosque.” “We urge all devotees to follow the instruction of Islamic Foundation regarding Tarabi prayer”, he added.
According to a circular issued by the religious affairs ministry, a maximum of 12 people, including two imams, can attend Tarabi prayers at a mosque during the holy month of Ramadan. The step was taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the country. The ministry also said its earlier directive on avoiding mosques and offering prayers at home would remain in force.
On April 6, the ministry asked people to offer Zohr prayers at home instead of Juma on Friday considering the coronavirus situation. A maximum of five people, including Khatib, Imam, Khadem and Muazzin are allowed to join a jamaat at a mosque and a maximum of 10 people can attend Juma prayers on Friday. However, none from outside the area of a particular mosque is allowed to enter it.
Leading Islamic clerics opine that the Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh) himself had given the same direction during a crisis period during his life. Dr Mohammad Shahidul Islam, an associate professor at Dhaka University's Arabic department said, "We should perform five time prayers at our home considering the situation."
He said, “As per Islamic rules and directives of the Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh), if there's any chance for any sick person to get infected by or a risk of death or fear of outbreak of any epidemic then people can avoid going to mosques.”
Referring to a hadith another Islamic scholar said once Mohammad (Pbuh) had been on a tour along with his several associates. At that time, people were facing serious difficulties to go to mosques due to chilling weather, rain and storm. Then the Prophet asked one of his associates to say in ajhan (call for prayers) to say prayers at home or where they were.
Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries also suspended congregational prayers at mosques in line with this hadith. “As per this hadith now we can perform our prayers at home to prevent the outbreak of coronavirus” he opined.
Referring to several hadiths, veteran Islamic clerics opine that the Prophet Mohammad (Pbuh) had a direction that the inhabitants of an area where any pandemic spreads should not come out while the people of other areas should not visit the affected area on health ground.
Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia and Gulf countries reached a decision in line of the holy Quran and hadith that people should say prayers now at home instead of mosques for safety reason and check the corona virus outbreak. Saudi Arabia decided to suspend congregational prayers in all mosques in the Kingdom except for the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.
In a statement, the Saudi government said Mosque doors will be closed temporarily but they will be allowed to recite the ahjan (call for prayer). But the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah are exempted from the decision. It also said an amendment has been made to the ajhan in which the usual phrase "come to prayer" in the Arabic has been replaced with "pray at home."
United Arab Emirates suspended prayers in all houses of worship including mosques across the country for four weeks, as part of the country's efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Kuwait also took additional steps and banned all mass prayers to check the coronavirus.
In a historic footage shared on social media, loudspeakers at mosques in the small Gulf state can be heard emitting a changed ajhan, or call for prayer. Mosques across the globe have shared the same ajhan five times a day for centuries. Kuwaiti mosques changed the words ‘hayya 'ala as-salah’ (come for prayer) to as ‘salatu fi buyutikum’ (pray at your home).