Tens of thousands not to get space for congregational prayers
Offering obligatory or Taraweeh prayers during the holy month of Ramazan, which is likely to start on April 24, will be a new experience this time because of the 20-point agreement reached between the government and the religious leaders of all schools of thought a day before to grapple with the deadly and fast-spreading coronavirus.
If the provisions of the agreement are strictly adhered to, a large number of people will not be able to perform the obligation at mosques because of lack of capacity there. And what such people will be doing after being denied an opportunity is difficult to predict.
Ramazan is the month when mosques are overcrowded as even those people who stay away from the religious obligation during the rest of the year go to mosques in search of the rewards promised by the Lord of the Worlds.
According to calculations made in light of Saturday’s agreement, only 15 people, including Imam, can offer prayers in a 30x29 feet area.
To elaborate the point, there will be a gap of six feet between the imam and the first row.
The first row (starting from left), will have a Namazi after which there will be a distance of six feet. There will be a total of five people in the first row, each attendee separated by a six-foot distance.
The second row will also have a six feet gap with the first one.
It will start with an empty space of six feet at the extreme left. After that four people will stand in the row, maintaining a six-foot distance from each other.
The third row – also at a distance of six feet from the second – will accommodate five people.
One row of prayer performers is estimated to cover three feet vertically and one Namazi about one-foot space.
Adhering to this formula, longer rows can be arranged depending upon the availability of space.
President Arif Alvi had said at the conclusion of the conference on Saturday: “Now to violate these SOP (Standard Operating Procedures) will be like a sin as all Ulema and Mashaikh [religious scholars and spiritual leaders] have agreed to it. We must keep in mind that [when you don’t take precautions] you commit a sin as you infect another person,” Alvi said.
In his televised presser the president had read out all the SOPs for the participants as well as public at large.
In the light of the agreement, between 1,000 and 1,200 people will be able to offer prayers at Jamia Naeemia, Garhi Shahu, which otherwise has the capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 worshippers.
According to Dr Ragheb Naeemi, the head of the institution, during Ramazan about 1,000 people come to the Jamia to offer Taraweeh prayers. Accommodating these people will not be a problem, he said.
He said there is a room for 400 people in the mosque, 1,000 in veranda, and 300 in the compound.
According to Dr Naeemi, the Jamia will not face any space problem during the holy month.
Going by this agreement, much less people will be able to offer congregational prayers at the historic Masjid-i-Shuhada on The Mall. It has a spacious hall, with open space on the left and right. Hundreds of people offer their regular prayers at this mosque every day.
But if the hall is excluded, in light of the agreement, only a few dozen people will be able to perform the religious obligation at this mosque.
Badshahi Masjid is the place that will be able to accommodate most for congregational prayers. It is one of the few significant architectural monuments built during Emperor Aurangzeb's long rule from 1658 to 1707.