Muslim worshippers at Jumma prayers flock to mosques across the city, despite the risks
From Indonesia to Morocco to Mecca, Covid-19 has stopped communal Muslim prayers for the first time in living memory in many mosques on Friday. But in some places, believers have defied medical advice to join the prayers.
In Bangladesh, the government did not give any direct instructions on avoiding congregations at mosques. It only made an appeal.
Meanwhile, an announcement was made through loudspeakers at noon on Friday from the Shah Saheb Nagar Jame Masjid of Mirpur's Paikpara: "The muezzin will sound the call to Jumma prayers at 1pm. And followed by a sermon, congregational prayers will be held at 1:45pm."
"You are requested to perform your ritual ablution and Sunnah prayers at home. You should come to the mosque only for performing the obligatory (Farz) prayers and ensure your own safety measures."
Regardless, many Muslims started flocking to the mosque at 12:30pm. They did ablution and offered Sunnah prayers at the mosque.
Although many such mosques authorities have broadcast similar messages in the capital, devout Muslims have defied such instructions.
The Islamic Foundation Bangladesh, on the advice of Islamic scholars, has urged the elderly and children not to go to mosques in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the appeal, there were elderly people and children in at least 20 mosques on Friday.
Some devotees were also seen crowding the area next to the mosques before and after the prayers. And many of them were also buying vegetables from roadside mobile shops.
Although the Islamic Foundation has advised limiting the participation of Muslims at the Jumma and regular prayers, the instructions have not been followed in any mosque.
The authorities also urged imams to shorten sermons and prayers and to maintain a minimum gap while arranging the rows for prayers.
In fact, in many places people even prayed on the street, unable to join the throng within.
Such scenes were observed in mosques situated in Mirpur, Shyamoli, Shukrabad, Kathalbagan, Magbazar, Circuit Road, Paltan, Baitul Mukarram, Dhanmondi and Kalbagan.
However, some mosques were seen providing hand sanitisers as people entered their premises. Soaps were also kept in some places for purposes of ablution.
Mohammad Mohsin, 43, who went to the Kathalbagan Bazar Jame Masjid, bought some groceries from roadside shops just after the prayers.
"Jumma is a social gathering too. So I went to the mosque and met some of my neighbours after so many days. And Allah is protecting those who abide by their obligations. I'm not running away from corona."
Mohammad Arif, salesman at a shop in Basundhara City, went to the Pathapath Jame Masjid. He told the Business Standard that he had taken enough safety precautions such as wearing a mask and hand gloves.
Meanwhile, the scene at Baitul Mokarram National Mosque was somewhat different. There were fewer devotees compared to the regular Jumma days. But elderly people were spotted there.
Nazimuddin, an elderly devotee, said, "I am old and I am ill, that is true. But why should I not come to the mosque? I fear Allah, not corona. The government did not shut down the mosques."
Anis Mahmud, director general of Islamic Foundation, told The Business Standard yesterday that imposing restrictions on Friday prayers was a tough proposition and a sensitive issue.
"We are trying to encourage people not to go to public places like mosques during the coronavirus outbreak. However, we cannot implement the government's directives."
"The decision to limit gatherings during Friday prayers could not be implemented properly. While some devotees showed caution, many others defied protective measures."
Sources said the two persons who died in Mirpur's Tolarbagh from coronavirus recently had not been in contact with foreigners. However, they would regularly attend prayers at a neighbourhood mosque.