Srinagar, Aug 21: Friday prayers were offered in all mosques and shrines after remaining suspended for about 22 weeks following closures of religious places in Kashmir valley since March to curtail the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.
Prayers were offered in Jamia Masjid in downtown Srinagar, Hazratbal shrine — which houses the relic of Prophet Muhammad — shrines of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani in Charari Sharief, Hamza Makhdoom Kashmiri Sahib, Harzat Syed Yaqoob Sahib, besides other Jamias and mosques in accordance with the guidelines issued by the authorities, including social distancing and facemasks.
A large number of people, maintaining social distance and wearing masks, offered Friday prayers in Hazratbal shrine, on the bank of world famous Dal Lake. Good number of women also offered prayers.
Jamia Masjid, which is a stronghold of Hurriyat Conference (HC) chairman Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq, witnessed large gathering of people though social distance was maintained during prayers and while leaving the mosque. Last year, the historic mosque remained closed for 132 days due to restrictions imposed by the authorities after scrapping Article 370 and Article 35 A on August 5, 2019.
Devotees in large numbers also thronged shrine of Sheikh Noor-ud-Din Noorani in Charari Sharief after it was thrown open for general public last week.
Similarly, first time in five months people offered prayers in congregation in other mosques and shrines across the valley, where authorities and religious groups have urged people to strictly follow guidelines issued to curtail the spread of COVID-19. However, people were offered Friday prayers in small and interior mosques in the valley though authorities were yet to lift ban on congregational prayers from last couple of weeks.
The special weekly prayers were offered on Friday in mosques and shrines across the valley after the J&K administration ordered reopening of all worship places from August 16. Meanwhile, Jamia Masjid, reopened on August 18 after remaining closed since March this year.
Meanwhile, devotees were upbeat about offering Friday prayers after over five months. “We are really happy that we were able to offer Friday prayers in mosques and shrines after over five months. But, we need to make sure that we follow all the guidelines, including maintaining social distance and wearing facemasks, so that COVID-19 doesn’t spread,” Tahir Hussain, a resident of Rainawari told UNI.
Similar feelings and awareness about SPOs were expressed by other people from different parts of the valley.
The J&K administration on August 4 had announced that all religious places and places of worship would be reopened from August 16. However, authorities issued guidelines and urged people not to lower their guard. “Community response holds the key to fighting Pandemic. Glad to see observance of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) as religious places opened today after 5 months. Hopeful about industry, business & transport to follow the pursuit,” Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, Shahid Iqbal Chaudhary had tweeted.
Authorities and religious organisations had announced closure all mosques and shrines in J&K in view of the outbreak of COVID-19 in March this year. The Mutahida Majlis-e-Ulema (MMEU), an organisation of different religious bodies, headed by incarcerated Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq, had appealed to people not to hold any congregational prayers on account of pandemic.
No congregational Shab-e-Qadar prayers were offered in any mosque in the valley. No prayers were offered on Jamat-ul-Vida, the last Friday of the holy fasting month Ramzan, in the valley, where Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha prayers were offered by people in their respective houses.