Should people shake hands? Religious leaders issue decree

Pakistan is a deeply religious society where religion---Islam--- plays an important role in giving meaning to the lives of people. Amidst Coronavirus outbreak the most pertinent question is; should people go to mosques and shake hands?

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The Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) on Tuesday said that in light of the fast-spreading novel coronavirus, all political and religious gatherings should be postponed “immediately”. The direction was part of a fatwa issued by the PUC after a meeting presided over by Chairman Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi.

Coronavirus appears to be single most terrifying challenge the world is deal with. According to latest media reports, more than 7,000 people have died and more than 156,000 have been infected by COVID-19 as the disease spreads rapidly to new territories. The epicenter of the outbreak has now shifted to Europe, which is recording a rapid rise in new cases every day.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has risen to 237 as of Wednesday after more cases were reported in Sindh.  The number of confirmed cases in Sindh rose to 172 after more cases (25 in Karachi and one from Hyderabad) were reported in the province on Monday.

There is a discrepancy in the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan as the Live Dashboard managed by the National Institute Health is updated with a delay and provincial authorities are providing a different toll.

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In the decree, religious scholars have told people to follow the measures issued by the government in order to prevent COVID-19 from spreading. The decree further says that Urdu sermons during Friday congregations should be discontinued while Arabic sermons should be shortened.

A safe distance should be kept between the rows of worshippers, who should pray on the floor — which should be washed with soap and water — instead of prayer mats. It would be preferable, the fatwa said, to pray in an open space. Furthermore, the elderly and the sick have been advised to pray at home.

The cleanliness of bathrooms and ablution sinks at mosques should be ensured and soaps and sanitisers should be placed for worshippers. Philanthropists have been asked to donate sanitisers, soaps and other cleaning supplies.

Amidst fear and anguish, religious leaders respond responsibly and issued necessary instructions to the people to stay at home and maintain social distance as prescribed by the experts

The decree further said that people should greet each other by saying Assalam Alaikum instead of shaking hands or hugging, as experts have advised against both practices.

The fatwa strictly forbade the hoarding of hand sanitisers, masks and soaps and directed people to report those who were involved in the practice. It also told people to avoid rumours as they spread fear.

So far, 212 cases of the novel coronavirus have emerged in Pakistan, a majority of which have been detected in Sindh.

Interestingly, amidst fear and anguish, the scientists at National University of Science and Technology (NUST) Attaur Rahman School of Applied Biosciences (ASAB) have successfully established Molecular Diagnostic Assays for the detection of novel coronavirus, in collaboration with Wuhan Institute of Virology China, DZIF Germany, Columbia University USA and Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP) Rawalpindi. These testing kits will cost one-fourth the current price for the kits used for detecting the COVID-19.

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Coronavirus has become a bigger challenge for the entire world. ealier it was hoped that the warmer weather may help fight this novel virus, but these reports have been rejected by the higher authorities. According to an article published by the World Economic Forum, the weather is unlikely to help fight Coronavirus. “From the evidence so far, the COVID-19 is at home in hot and humid weather, as well as the cold. You could try having a very hot bath – but that wouldn’t do much either, according to the WHO. Your body temperature will not be affected greatly by normal changes in outside temperature, which means the coronavirus will always be comfortable,” it said.

Amidst fear and anguish, religious leaders respond responsibly and issued necessary instructions to the people to stay at home and maintain social distance as prescribed by the experts. It is believed that through rigorous preventative measures the country will be able to defeat pandemic Coronavirus.

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