Lockdown Diary 4: Taraweeh & stubborn Mullahs

Today I was watching on TV where the President of Pakistan Dr. Arif Alvi was addressing a press conference after a mammoth meeting with religious leaders from across the country and reading out 20- point agenda regarding offerings of Taraweeh during the ensuing Holy month of Ramazan. Thus the government has allowed such non-Faraz prayers during Ramazan, despite the fact that Farz prayers are restricted these days.

The main crux of his speech after the meeting with religious clerics was the government would allow these religious congregations with certain conditionalities, which are, in fact, not fit in any case, to the SOPs to avoid social distances in large gatherings.

It is a pity that religious elements in the country have been pressurizing and blackmailing the governments to impose their views and alter government decisions. We have been watching the full violent stage theatres on TV screens every Friday when despite the strict ban the Friday congregations are held with crowds attending everywhere in the country and the government seems helpless. Even on the first Friday after the official lockdown, the unruly mobs of religious zealots attacked police parties in Liaqatabad Karachi that tried to prevent the holding of the congregation in order to implement the rule of law. On the second Friday, the religious zealots attacked a lady police officer in Orangi town in Karachi. The religious leaders of some mosques are facing cases, even under anti-terrorism law on violations of government orders and attacks on Police personnel.

Last Friday, the media was full of pictures of a huge gathering at the famous Lal Masjid in Islamabad near Aabpara, where a large number of faithful attended Juma prayers without any resistance from the state’s law enforcement agencies. Even one can see in the pictures a guard was standing alert in plainclothes with a sophisticated Kalashnikov rifle in his hand, apparent for guarding the Friday prayers gathering in violation of the lockdown orders.

Today’s announcement by the head of the state was, in fact, a slap on the face of the government, which has always succumbed to pressures from religious parties.

At first religious pilgrims from Iran and Saudi Arabia caused the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan, then Tablighis from Raiwand, who are still being diagnosed with coronavirus positive across the country. Even yesterday in Ghotki town in upper Sindh over 90 Tablighis were found positive after the testing. Results for more tests are still awaited.

It is a matter of fact that Saudi Arabia, which is considered the leader of the Muslim world because all important religious pilgrimage places are located there, has announced its coronavirus policy regarding the holding of Taraweeh during the Holy month of Ramazan and asked the faithful to offer their prayers at homes. Yesterday, during a Zoom conference call a friend of mine from Saudi Arabia told us that there is strict implementation of lockdowns and in case of violation heavy fines are imposed. There is a 24-hour strict lockdown on holy places across Saudi Arabia, but in some other cities, there is relaxation during the daytime. His area was also included in the relaxed lockdown.

Here in Pakistan, our religious leaders are adamant about holding prayer gatherings at all costs. Religious gatherings have already proved to be prone to the spread of coronavirus and churches, temples and synagogues are closed down all over the world.

Our religious leaders are so “Hypocrites” that even one of the top Muftis was saying in a TV programme that there are different conditions in Saudi and Pakistan and “we are not obliged to follow Saudi traditions,” a blatant lie by a religious leader as people of his sect have been following the laws and rules given by Saudi Arabia in their preaching and even many of that school of thought have been receiving money from Saudi Arabia on many occasions. Their religious schools (Madressah) are regularly funded by Saudi Arabia.

There should be no “ifs and buts” for following the lockdown orders of the Pakistan government and Taraweeh should not be allowed at any cost. These special prayers during Ramzan are considered Nawafil (optional) prayers, which were, some experts say, not proved during the life of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him).

According to the noted religious scholar Javed Ghamdi, the Holy Prophet was offering Tahajud prayers for longer durations during the nights of Ramzan. According to him, Tahajud was Farz on only Holy Prophet (PBUH) and He was offering it in his private place (Hujrah).

Only once in Ramazan, the Holy Prophet (PBUH) offered Tahajud out of his Hujrah and offered it in Masjid-e-Nabvi. Some Sahaba (RA) requested the Holy Prophet (PBUH) that they be allowed to offer Tahajud with him. The Holy Prophet (PBUH) had made it clear that it is not “Farz” for the rest of Muslims, but they can recite the Holy Quran during the month of Ramazan. According to him Witre in Isha prayers is Tahajud (which is said to be Wajib). There are conflicts on the number of Rakaats in Taraweeh.

Another religious scholar of the Sunni sect Engineer Muhammad Ali Mirza has said there are four names of Tahajud: Qayamul Lail, Tahjud, Witre and Taraweeh.

Despite the fact, that Taraweeh may be offered in Ramazan there should be no excuse to compromise on human health to hold congregations of Taraweeh at any cost. The Mullahs should be told categorically.

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