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Jakarta Post

Muhammadiyah allows mosques to hold mass Friday prayers with strict health protocols

  • Sri Wahyuni

    The Jakarta Post

Yogyakarta   /   Fri, June 5, 2020   /   07:34 am
Muhammadiyah allows mosques to hold mass Friday prayers with strict health protocols A staff member makes a line as a marker for social distancing for Friday prayers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in a mosque in Bekasi, West Java on May 28. (REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana)

Indonesia’s second-largest Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, said on Thursday that its members and Muslims in general may again take part in public prayers in mosques starting this Friday with health protocols and particular arrangements in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The announcement marks the opening of mosques and other Muslim holy sites, especially those associated with Muhammadiyah, after they were closed for congregational prayers in March.

In a circular read out by the organization’s deputy secretary Agung Danarto during a press briefing on Thursday, the Muhammadiyah central executive board (PP) stated that the compulsory Friday prayers could be conducted in mosques, mushola (prayer rooms) or other similar places.

“The prayers held in mosques or mushola should be carried out according to health protocols set out by Muhammadiyah's COVID-19 command center [MCCC] or local administrations,” Agung said.

According to the circular, Friday prayers with COVID-19 prevention protocols can take place in more than one shift or in several places, such as in other buildings or rooms other than mosques or mushola, to give Muslims a chance to join the congregations.

It also reminded the public that the status of “green” or “red zones” -- referring to the level of coronavirus transmission in certain areas -- was very dynamic and could change at any time, thus Muhammadiyah members and Muslims in general have to remain up to date with relevant information so they can take the necessary precautions.

“It is advisable that in carrying out worship, one must take health, benefit, safety and security concerns into consideration to avoid mafsadat [damage or negative impacts] and to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Agung said.

The circular, jointly signed by Muhammadiyah chairman Haedar Nashir and secretary Abdul Mu’ti, was issued alongside guidance on how to conduct worship amid the pandemic, which is a continued version of the previous guidance issued by the organization’s tarjih (law making) and tajdid (reform) council.

The guidance was signed by the council's chairman Syamsul Anwar and secretary Mohammad Mas’udi.

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Among other things, it regulates that congregations can maintain distance while praying instead of standing close to each other in their shaf (rows) during the pandemic. It also allows them to wear masks while praying.

Straightening and tightening shaf are part of perfecting shalat (prayers), but as the conditions are yet to return to normal, distancing shaf is advisable to avoid infection, the guidance reads.

“This is in line with Prophet [Muhammad's] spirit,” said Fuad Zain of Muhammadiyah's tarjih and tajdid council.

Wearing masks while praying, which is not allowed during normal conditions, does not damage the legitimacy of prayer, the guidance reads.

“Especially in a time of a pandemic, a mask is a personal protector that has to be put on outdoors, including when going to the mosques or mushola to take part in mass prayers,” Fuad said.

Meanwhile, MCCC chairman Agus Syamsuddin reminded takmir (mosque managements) to make sure of the status of the pandemic in their respective areas so as to assure that the decision to open mosques for mass prayers is not based only on emotion.

Agus also advised the takmir to make necessary preparations, including the provision of thermo guns and hand sanitizers for people entering the mosques as well as to prepare shaf arrangements and ablution places according to the health protocols.

“The availability of inspectors in mosques is also pivotal to make sure that everyone obeys the prevailing protocols,” Agus said, as he went on to remind the takmir to promptly close a mosque again if a congregation is found to have been infected by COVID-19.