As lockdown curbs ease, Muslim across Bangladesh offer Jummah prayers at mosques

As the clock ticks closer noon, an all-too-familiar sense of urgency washes over Rashedul Islam, who frantically paces around his home in Old Dhaka's Narinda while his wife brings him a prayer mat.

Senior Correspondentbdnews24.com
Published : 8 May 2020, 01:57 PM
Updated : 8 May 2020, 01:57 PM

But even with a mask draped across his face, Rashedul's elation was unbridled when he eventually set foot outside his house.

A month after the novel coronavirus outbreak turned his life upside down, a semblance of normality had returned as he strode down to his neighbourhood mosque to attend the Jummah prayers.

With the government gradually easing some of the lockdown curbs, Muslims across the country congregated at their local mosques on Friday for the Jummah prayers.

All the while, both the mosque authorities and fellow devotees remained mindful of the physical distancing and hygiene norms, according to Rashedul.

Muslims offer Friday prayers at Ahmad Nagar Daud Khan Mosque in Dhaka's Mirpur after over a month of curbs due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

“Every worshipper at the mosque kept a fair amount of space between themselves while standing for the prayer," he said.

Despite a worsening coronavirus outbreak in Bangladesh, Rashedul believes people can still practise their religious rights without exposing themselves to the pathogen with greater awareness of the disease.

Bangladesh reported its first cases of COVID-19 on Mar 8 and within two months, the death count from the disease has crossed 200 while more than 13,000 have been infected.

The rampant outbreak prompted the government to enforce a nationwide lockdown from Mar 26 alongside strict stay-at-home orders for citizens in a bid to slow the spread of the disease.

The government also placed curbs on congregations at mosques, restricting daily prayer congregations to five people, including mosque officials while Jummah congregations were capped to just 10 devotees.

But on May 6, the religious affairs ministry scaled back the restrictions on attending prayer congregations while handing down a set of safety protocols for mosque authorities and worshippers to observe.

Muslims offer Friday prayers at a mosque in Dhaka's Mirpur-1 after over a month of curbs due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

The guidelines include cleaning mosques with disinfectants before every prayer session and installing hand-washing facilities equipped with soaps or hand sanitizer at the entrances. Devotees were directed to perform their ablutions at home and wash their hands with for at least 20 seconds while wearing a mask and carrying individual prayer mats from home.

Worshippers are also required to maintain a gap of at least three feet between each other when they line up for the prayers as part of the physical distancing rules. Failure to abide by the guidelines would have legal consequences, the government warned.

By and large, devotees and mosques alike followed the government's guidelines, including the social distancing rules, during the Jummah prayers on Friday, according to law enforcement.

Before the prayers, the police held a meeting with the imams of seven mosques in the neighbourhood, including Baitul Mukarram National Mosque regarding the sanitization requirements which they all followed, Paltan Police Station chief Abu Bakar Siddique told bdnews24.com.

Anis Mahmud, director general of Islamic Foundation, attended the Jummah prayer congregation at Baitul Mukarram Mosque and found that almost everyone following the safety rules.

Muslims offer Friday prayers at a mosque in Dhaka's Mirpur-1 after over a month of curbs due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Nevertheless, the presence of several elderly people at the mosque caught Anis' attention, particularly as children, the ageing, the sick and those tending to the sick were barred from attending congregations.

Around 268,000 mosques across the country held the Jummah congregation in compliance with the government's health and safety guidelines, according to the Islamic Foundation.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher