KARACHI: As several prominent clerics demanded the lifting of restrictions on congregational prayers in Pakistan despite a growing number of Covid-19 cases, mosques in Karachi have started gearing up to receive worshippers for Friday prayers as well as the upcoming Taraweeh prayers during Ramazan.
Per sources, mosque and imam bargah administrations across Karachi are making arrangements to create an exemplary model for prayers through the strict implementation of the government’s recommended standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of the deadly disease. All decisions are being taken in consultation with senior religious scholars so that as soon as matters are resolved with the government, worshippers can start offering prayers in mosques.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, the secretary of Markazi Jamaa Masjid in Karachi's Central District Asif Iqbal said that following the SOPs, carpets have been removed from most mosques and imam bargahs, while the installation of walk-through disinfection gates, hand-wash dispensers at entrances, and soap and sanitizers in toilets have been completed.
“Under the protective measures, digital infrared thermometers have also been purchased for checking the temperature of worshippers before entering the mosques and prayer halls,” Iqbal said. “Besides that, we have drawn circles on the floors of the mosques so that people do no stand close to each other and maintain the necessary distance while offering prayers. We are also disinfecting the mosques at regular intervals.”
Sources said that mosque administrations are waiting for an official announcement regarding the resumption of congregational prayers once the government and the Ulema reach a consensus.
“After the announcement, congregational prayers will be performed according to the SOPs in all the mosques and imam bargahs across Karachi,” Asif Iqbal said.
He said that the Markazi Jamaa Masjid will serve as a model for other mosques and imam bargahs to save the worshippers from spreading or contracting the virus.
“If congregational prayers recommence, then we would also allow people to offer their obligatory prayers in mosques and imam bargahs. However, worshippers would be requested to offer the rest of the prayers at home.”
Imams of other mosque revealed that the costs incurred to implement the SOPs, which is estimated to be around Rs100,000 to Rs200,000, have been covered through generous donations.
“The ongoing lockdown has made it difficult for mosques and imam bargahs to pay their utility bills and salaries of their staff, including prayer leaders (Imams), moazzins and support staff because our main source of revenue is donations collected on Friday prayers and the donation boxes installed in mosques,” Asif said.
He added that a few affluent people and businesses also fund mosques every month. Amid the lockdown, however, congregational prayers have been suspended due to which the collection of donations has been drastically reduced.
“The donations have been reduced by as much as 70 per cent, making it extremely difficult for mosques to pay salaries to their imams and other workers. No mosque has, however, laid the staff off, while many eminent personalities have generously assisted them,” Asif said.
The number of staffers depends on the size of the mosque, while their salaries are paid according to the status of each area. The salary of an imam ranges from Rs15,000 to Rs30,000, the moazzin is paid between Rs12,000 to Rs20,000, while support staff are paid between Rs18,000 to Rs10,000. The salaries are determined by the administration of each mosque and are contingent upon consultation and revenue collection.
“As for utility bills, each mosque has to pay Rs150,000 to Rs300,000, depending on its income. When donations are low, the surplus is borne by donors. Many mosques purchase new carpets, renovate ablution areas, add curtains and replace loudspeakers in Ramazan.
Moreover, iftar arrangements as well as any allowances or bonuses to the staff at the mosques are made by affluent people,” he said. "Due to the implementation of protective measures, mosques and imam bargahs will need more donations to bear the additional expenses."