Ramazan begins in Pakistan today, though parts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province lived up to their decades-long practice and started observing the holy month a day earlier. This shows that nothing — not even an unprecedented crisis resulting from a novel pandemic — can unite us on something that has been a non-issue for the rest of the Muslim world.
Anyways, the fasting month is here, and it’s sure going to be different this time. It’s Ramazan amid lockdown — partial, smart or full. All prayers in mosques — including Taraweeh — will be offered under the SOPs, agreed upon between the federal government and ulema, meant to contain the spread of the coronavirus through social distancing. Sindh has, however, gone a step ahead, banning all congregational prayers inside mosques to protect people from the mushrooming infection. Azans will continue and only mosques’ prayer leaders, muezzins and other staffers will offer prayers inside the mosques.
The Sindh government’s decision on congregational prayers has been necessitated by a 79% surge in the local transmission of the virus over the past few days. Doctors from all over the country are sounding alarm bells about what they see as an imminent peak in the number of coronavirus cases a month or so down the line. The only way to prevent the spread of the deadly virus, they say, from becoming unmanageable is to put in place a strict lockdown. Medical experts have warned that if social distancing is not practised, this might result in chaos — a situation in which it would be very difficult to provide treatment to all the affectees.
In what addresses the concerns of health experts some way, the President, the Prime Minister and other government functionaries as well as renowned ulema and religious scholars have been advising the public to offers prayers at home. To facilitate those who would want to perform Taraweeh at home, Pakistan Television has arranged for daily live telecast of the prayers.
Our religion asks its followers not to intentionally expose themselves to life-threatening situations. Those who are not practising social distancing are only failing to realise the gravity of the situation.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2020.
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