Mosques close amid Covid-19 lockdown

Two mosques in the Athlone News distribution area have closed their doors to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

Masjidul Quds in Gatesville closed yesterday, Tuesday March 17, and the Shukrul Mubeen in Lansdowne closed on Sunday March 15.

Co-imam at Masjidul Quds, Sheikh Abduragmaan Alexander, read out a statement in a video posted on Facebook on Monday.

He said the mosque would remain closed in line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decree that not more than 100 people should gather in one spot.

This would affect Jumu’ah (Friday congregational prayers) and Lailatul Me’raj, Rajab 27 -1441, which coincides with Saturday March 21, a commemoration of the prophet Muhammad’s journey to the seven heavens.

spended until further notice. This is an ideal opportunity for us to build our connection with our families. Strengthening our family bonds by leading the salaah for our wives and our children.”

The athaan (call for prayer) will be replaced with “Prayer in your homes. Make salaah in your homes.”

Shaykh Isgaak Taliep, secretary general of the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), said they appealed to everyone to practise basic hygiene and minimise direct contact with others if possible.

“The MJC (SA) echoes the call of the state president that every component of our society must play an active role and work together to combat this global pandemic,” he said.

On Sunday President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the Covid-19 pandemic a national disaster and outlined extraordinary measures to fight it.  

At the time of Mr Ramaphosa’s televised address to the nation, on Sunday, the country had 61 confirmed cases of people infected with the virus.

That number was expected to rise in the coming days and weeks, Mr Ramaphosa said.

Initially, it had been people who had travelled out of the country, especially from Italy, who had tested positive, he said. “It is concerning that we are now dealing with internal transmission of the virus.”

The World Health Organisation has declared the Covid-19 outbreak a global pandemic. More than 153 000 people have tested positive for what it is commonly referred to as the coronavirus in 146 countries with more than 5 700 deaths.  

An “extraordinary response” was needed to limit the impact of the virus on South African society and the country’s economy, the president said.

These measures include:

Prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people.

Banning foreign nationals from high-risk countries, such as Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Germany, America, the UK, and China, from visiting South Africa. Those who entered the country from mid-February must present themselves for testing.

Cancelling visas to visitors from those countries and revoking those already granted.

Discouraging all non-essential domestic travel, particularly by air, rail, taxis and bus.

Cancelling mass celebrations of upcoming national days such as Human Rights Day and other large government events.

Closing 35 of the country’s 72 land ports and two of the eight sea ports.

Prohibiting all non-essential travel for all spheres of government outside of the country.

Closing schools from Wednesday March 18 until after the Easter Weekend. To compensate, the mid-year school holidays will be shortened by a week.  

Suspending visits to all correctional centres for 30 days.

Mr Ramaphosa said countries that had heeded the call to implement radical measures had fared much better than those that had not.

Businesses, including mining, retail, banking, farming, should intensify hygiene control as should malls, entertainment venues and other places drawing large numbers of people.

People should wash their hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitisers for at least 20 seconds; cover their noses and mouths when coughing and sneezing with tissues or flexed elbow; and avoid close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms.

A national command council, chaired by the president, would meet three times a week, to coordinate all aspects of the emergency response.

Covid-19 would have a significant and potentially lasting impact on the country’s economy, Mr Ramaphosa warned.

“Cabinet is therefore in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of Covid-19 on our economy. This package, will consist of various fiscal and other measures, and it will be concluded following consultation with business, labour and other relevant institutions. It is clear that this disease will be extremely disruptive.”

Mr Ramaphosa said fear and ignorance were perhaps the greatest dangers to the country at this time.

“We should stop spreading fake and unverified news and create further apprehension and alarm.

“While we are facing a medical emergency far graver than we have experienced in recent times, we are not helpless. We have the knowledge, we have the expertise among us, we have the means
and the resources to fight this disease.”

The country needed to be united in its response to the threat, and everyone should play their part, the president said.

“Although we may be limiting physical contact… this epidemic has the potential to bring us closer together. We are responding as a united nation to a common threat.

“This national emergency demands that we co-operate that we collaborate and that we take common action.”

The Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) SA Fatwa committee has decreed that mosques should not be completely closed but religious obligations should happen within certain parameters.

They said the president’s announcement necessitated that the manner in which Muslims conduct their religious obligations align with the universal imperative of containing the spread of the virus.

“Muslims, as much as they carry the obligation of certain religious observances, also share with all other South Africans and citizens of the world the civil responsibility of ensuring safety and preserving life,” read the statement.

It is signed by mufti ameer head of the fatwa committee Maulana Taha Karaan.

Mosque committees have been called on to specifically identify, list and regulate the individuals, who make up the group of 100, specifically for jumu’ah.

“This can be done by asking individuals who want to attend to submit their names, and thereafter select a group of 100 persons per week from the list of names submitted.”

The statement discouraged gatherings at the mosque for occasions like Meraaj and social gatherings like weddings, janazah’s (funerals), prayer meetings and classes should be restricted in terms of numbers.

Minimise or avoid handshaking but encourage the verbal greeting of “salaam”.

“The MJC, together with all its sister organisations, and in consultation with the authorities, will continue to monitor the situation, ” said Maulana Karaan.

They also decreed that the use of hand sanitizer is acceptable, even the types that contain alcohols – isopropanol and ethanol.

People who are sick and have compromised immune systems should refrain from attending mosques.

They listed chronic medical conditions such as asthma, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, tuberculosis (TB), HIV or Aids.