Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti, Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the Islamic kingdom, said that prayers (Tarawih) during Ramazan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues, Saudi’s Okaz newspaper reported on Friday.
Sheikh Abul Aziz Al Sheikh was responding to questions. Saudi Arabia has continuously taken quick and bold decisions from early March to contain the spread of pandemic. Given Saudi’s leading position across the Muslim world especially in religious matters it has helped other countries to come up with rational decisions that may have looked strong and unusual if Saudi Arabia had not provided the leadership. Turkey and GCC countries – Abu Dhabi, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar – all have taken similar steps restricting assemblies at religious places including mosques and shrines.
Pakistan: troublesome clerics defying government?
In Pakistan the situation has been totally opposite and quite chaotic. Four days ago, Chairman of Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman announced that coronavirus lockdown will not apply on mosques from today, mosques will remain opened with precautionary measures. He was not advising or requesting the government but merely announcing his decision.
While doing a joint press conference along with the scholars of various schools of thoughts at Karachi Press Club – including the fire brand, Mufti Taqi Usmani, Muneeb ur Rehman said “we cannot afford to close mosques and madrassas for so long.”
He added that the during Ramadan tarawih prayer and Itikaf will continue in the mosques. He said that even the British government had provided facilities to the citizens – which was a quite below belt attack on the government of Pakistan.
Mufti Muneeb had meant that while the un-Islamic colonial government was sensitive to Muslims but our Muslim government is not. This sounded like a total crass black mail. He warned that if the government does not take steps, it will lose the confidence of the people. Government of PM Imran Khan had to do lots of diplomacy and communication behind the scenes to convince the clerics not to incite trouble as it extended the partial lock downs.
Pakistan waited for fatwas from aboard to close mosques
In Pakistan, there it has been difficult to create a consensus between the religious authorities and the state. While the rest of Muslim world and Muslim communities in every part of the world were shutting down mosques, governments in Pakistan were cowering with fear to take a decision.
Finally, fatwas were being obtained from abroad – Egypt – to support an otherwise rational decision. And finally a decision was taken, perhaps the last one in the whole world. On this Friday, news broke of individuals praying outside closed masjids (mosques) despite the government repeatedly ordering people to stay home.
Previously, SHO Sharafat Khan, who led a team to stop the worshippers from congressional Friday prayers, in Karachi, suffered bruises while other officials also sustained injuries in the attack. Similar incidents have been heard on social media from other parts of the country.
“Muslim prayers during Ramadan & Eid should be performed at home if the COVID-19 outbreak continues”, says Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh.
Pakistan Govt should also appoint a Grand Mufti who have the guts to give a similar Fatwa. 👍@PoliticalGuru3 pic.twitter.com/cM7nhYEp8l
— Rashid Zia Cheema (@RZCheema) April 18, 2020
The holy month of Ramadan which is expected to begin on the 24th of April in Pakistan is bound to be an extremely difficult month not only because of the hardships endured due to fasting but also because of the rift between the religious clerics and the state and the tendency of clerics to defy authorities in the name fo religion.
Pakistan in mid-March stopped people performing their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer inside mosques as part of efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. However, the tussle is only about to get more heated than it is.