Friday prayers cancelled at the Jama Masjid as the number of COVID cases soar in Delhi

Published : June 12, 2020 12:01 IST

A deserted Jama Masjid on April 24. Photo: Sushil Kumar Verma

Delhi’s historic Jama Masjid, which opened after multiple rounds of sanitisation less than a week ago, is closed again. There will be no Friday prayers for the public today as Shahi Imam Ahmed Bukhari has advised people to pray at home because of the fear of the spread of coronavirus.

The decision is a voluntary one, as there has been no official order from the Delhi or the Central government to close places of worship. However, Delhi is witnessing a spike in COVID-19 cases since the phased lockdown was lifted. In last two hours alone, Delhi registered 1,877 fresh cases and 101 deaths.

Crematoriums and cemeteries are running out of space and resources to carry out last rites. The Punjabi Bagh crematorium, which is reserved for COVID-19-related deaths, had received 73 bodies by 3 p.m. yesterday though it has a capacity to cremate only 65 on any given day. The bodies which were received in the evening were diverted to the more spacious Nigambodh Ghat. Likewise, Jadeed Qabrastan, located just off Bahadur Shah Zahar Marg and which had allocated a special area for COVID victims, is now reported to be running out of space.

It is under these circumstances that the Shahi Imam took the decision to close the Jama Masjid following consultations with the community elders. “After consulting scholars, it has been decided there will be no congregational prayers at Jama Masjid until June 30,” Bukhari said. “Only select people [a handful of staffers who stay in the masjid] shall perform the daily prayers in the masjid while the general worshippers can perform the prayers at home. The situation is critical in the city. One has to protect oneself as also others from the deadly virus. With the Delhi government figures projecting around 5.5. lakh cases by end-July, I took the decision to close the mosque.”

Bukhari also advised other mosques and places of worship to take a similar call. “In view of Islamic teachings, if a situation becomes so grave where human life is at risk, it is obligatory to save lives.”

Meanwhile, the mosque will continue to issue azaan as on normal days. This is done for the limited prayers to continue within the premises.

Incidentally, after all places of worship were opened by the government on June 8, Jama Masjid was thoroughly sanitised. Its main place of ablution, the traditional hauz, or pond, remained closed, with worshippers being encouraged to perform ablution at home. The prayer was held only in the main hall and people were not allowed to offer prayers in the courtyard or the corridors.

It remains to be seen if the mosque will open for the public after June 30 or whether the authorities will decide to keep it shut until the number of the COVID cases begin to decline in the city.