Friday prayer at home for most but some risk infection


There was mixed reaction in the city on Friday to ban on congregational prayers by the Sindh government.
In some areas worshippers crowded into mosques, defying warnings about the fast-spreading coronavirus and fuelling fears of a public health crisis, however, in most parts of the city they refrained themselves from going to mosques and offered their prayer at home.
Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab and Islamabad had banned prayers inside mosques after the number of people infected by coronavirus crossed 1,200. It was feared that the virus would spread through Friday prayers.
According to the police, despite these orders, people gathered outside mosques and tried to enter them. Gurumandir’s Sabeel Mosque, Binoria Town Mosque and Memon Mosque violated the government’s instructions and held Friday prayers and sermons.
Personnel of the police and Rangers kept telling people to stay at home and pray indoors. They read out the government orders on microphones and megaphones as well. People, however, started queuing up and praying outside mosques after which the authorities took action against them. In contrast to many other Muslim countries, Pakistani clerics and government officials have refused to close mosques attended by millions each week, where hugs and handshakes are common. The country’s leading religious scholars have only advised that the old and sick avoid prayers and instructed clerics to keep sermons brief.
“We don’t believe in coronavirus, we believe in Allah. Whatever happens, it happens from Allah,” said Altaf Khan, as worshippers wearing masks arrived for Friday prayers. Tiktok videos garnering hundreds of thousands of likes on social media in Pakistan have called for Muslims to attend mosques despite public health warnings.
“Most of the people are terrified,” said a resident Syed Ashfaq Ahmed, adding, “They went to the mosque to seek help from Allah.”
Pakistan has so far declared 1,235 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and nine deaths but there are fears that limited testing is understating the true scale of the outbreak which has infected more than 530,000 people globally.
The majority of its early cases have been directly linked to pilgrims returning from Iran, where for weeks authorities refused to close its shrines as the virus spread, exposing possibly tens of thousands of people.