Clerics warned of strict action if any mosques found violating SOPs during fasting month
A meeting of senior ulema and the government has agreed upon several standard operating procedures (SOPs) for congregations at mosques during the upcoming month of Ramzan, with an emphasis on stern action against anyone who violates the agreement.
Last week, federal Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri had announced that Pakistan would not close any mosques during Ramzan, despite the ongoing third wave of the coronavirus pandemic that Prime Minister Imran Khan has described as “far more dangerous” than the first two waves.
Chaired by President Arif Alvi, the meeting was attended by ulema, senior government officials, the governors of all four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, and the chief secretary of Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The participants decided that—unlike last year—mosques and imambargahs would be allowed to host aitekaf with strict observance of SOPs. Additionally, the distance between worshippers has been reduced from six feet to three, with warnings that anyone found violating these guidelines would face legal action.
In line with the agreement the government had inked with ulema last year, gatherings for sehr and iftar have been prohibited at all mosques. Similarly, prayers would be offered on bare floors, which would be disinfected regularly, and no carpets or floor mats would be laid down—unless the floor is unpaved.
Congregants would also be encouraged to perform ablution at home, and avoid any gatherings at mosques before and after prayers. Where possible, prayers would be offered in the open air, rather than inside prayer halls.
According to the SOPs, minors and people over 60 would be discouraged from joining congregational prayers. Anyone with symptoms of cold, cough or flu would also be discouraged from attending prayers in mosques. Worshippers would also be required to wear masks during prayers, and any form of physical contact has been sternly prohibited.
The ulema pledged to have each mosque and Imambargah form a committee to ensure the implementation of the precautionary measures and cooperate with authorities.
During the meeting, the president urged the ulema to raise awareness about the threat of the third wave of the pandemic. Ruet-i-Hilal Committee Chairman Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad suggested that clerics should promote the ongoing vaccination drive commemorate the first Friday of Ramzan to overcoming COVID-19.
The government stressed to ulema that if the spread of coronavirus worsened at any point during Ramzan, authorities had the right to impose harsher restrictions on areas most affected by the pandemic.