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Coronavirus shrinks religious gatherings as ‘pray-at-home’ order reigns

By Sulaimon Salau
20 March 2020   |   2:57 am
As the coronavirus spreads like wildfire, the effect is fast affecting religious gatherings particularly Friday prayers as many nations suspend congregational prayers and order ‘pray-at-home’ for faithful.

As the coronavirus spreads like wildfire, the effect is fast affecting religious gatherings particularly Friday prayers as many nations suspend congregational prayers and order ‘pray-at-home’ for faithful.

Muslim scholars agreed that ‘pray-at-home’ is the best decision backed by the traditions of the noble Prophet Muhammad (SAW) at a critical period of disease spread such as COVID-19.

As the pray-at-home gathers momentum in Nigeria, many nations including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Turkey, Morocco, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman have taken drastic measures to combat the pandemic.

For example, the adhaan in Kuwait was reportedly changed due to the coronavirus. Instead of “hayya alas-salah” (come to prayer), the muadhin said “al-salatu fi buyutikum” (pray in your homes).

Already, Lagos State government asked religious leaders to stop Friday (Juma’at) and Sunday service that go beyond 50 people.The State Commissioner for Information, Gbenga Omotosho, said the religious leaders would be advised to shut down services in the interest of the public.

“It is going to be suggested to them to maybe stop Friday and Sunday services – wherever we have large gatherings,” he said.

In view of this action, several Islamic groups including Nasirul-lahi Fathi Society of Nigeria (NASFAT); Muslims Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN); Lekki Central Mosque (LEMU), among others have cancelled Jumat Prayers, Asalatu gatherings and other congregational religious actives.

LEMU President Kamoru Omotosho, in a statement, ordered suspension of congregational prayers and activities in the mosque.Omotosho urged all worshipers to perform their obligatory and supererogatory prayers in their respective homes for now.

Also, Saudi Arabia has suspended congregational and weekly Friday prayers. The kingdom on Tuesday suspended prayers inside all but the holiest two mosques in Makkah and Madinah in the quest to contain the coronavirus.

“Mosques will be temporarily shut for the five daily Islamic prayers as well as the weekly Friday prayers,” the official Saudi Press Agency said, citing the council of senior scholars, the Kingdom’s highest religious body. It said mosques would continue to issue the ritual call to prayer.

The decision seeks to direct worshippers to pray at home but does not affect prayers in Makkah’s Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, it added.

In a related development, Turkey has suspended congregational mosque prayers, including the important Friday prayer, until further notice.
Head of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), Ali Erbas, said: “Until the danger of spreading the new type of Coronavirus disappears, it has become necessary to interrupt prayers with the community in mosques and masjids (small mosques or prayer rooms), especially Friday prayers.”

Malaysia had said that more than half the country’s 428 coronavirus cases were linked to an international Islamic gathering held last month. The Southeast Asian nation announced a spike of 190 new infections over the weekend, mostly linked to a global Islamic event attended by almost 20,000 people.

Similarly, Morocco has also decided to shut down all mosques during all five daily and weekly Friday prayers until further notice.The country’s supreme religious council said the measure is temporary and the adhan (call to Muslim prayer) will continue at all mosques.

Kuwait also took steps and banned all mass prayers, an unprecedented move in a country where hundreds of thousands pray side-by-side every day.

“Pray at home, pray at home,” an Imam preached in a recording that went viral on social media.

Abu Mazeedatilkhayr bn Sa’eed, in his preaching tagged, “The Corona Pandemic: What a Blessing!” said: “Every calamity comes with its lessons. The lessons learnt from this ravaging corona pandemic is about the nothingness of man. Now, it’s apparently clear that man is not only a failure to the beautiful world that habours him, but also a huge disaster to himself.

“The technology and science which he fondly relies upon to the detriment of his faith in Allah is, after all, a limited skill. He can now see that he is doom to self-inflicted pain, bewilderment, anxiety and confusion, except he obeys his Lord.

“Now, our survival, as humans, is threatened. The global interactions are already broken into pieces. The artificial equipment-birds crafted by man, otherwise called Aeroplane, have started vacating the airspace and the territorial waters. In many countries, people are locked up”.

“For the fear of being hit by the notorious COVID-19, the entire human race is gradually being concealed in burqa. The rebellious soul who, years before, had abhorred seeing a Muslim woman covered in Niqaab is now (himself, his entire family, friends and neighbours – male and female) enveloped in purdah. We perform ablution, even with soap!” he said.

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