Pak Mulls Uniform Prayer Timings

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ISLAMABAD: The government of Pakistan is actively considering the feasibility of rolling out uniform prayer timings in the capital city- Islamabad as a pilot project. If it works well, the plan is to make it a nationwide practice. Such a system is already in place in Saudi Arabia, prompting criticism from some quarters that “the move was aimed at bringing the Saudi system” to Pakistan. 

According to media reports in Pakistan, the government on Thursday, 26 March, informed the National Assembly that it is currently in consultations with religious scholars from all sects to introduce uniform prayer timings in the federal capital. The Express Tribune quotes the Minister of State for Religious Affairs Pir Aminul Hasnat as saying, “We are making efforts to introduce uniform timings for Azaan (call for prayer) in Islamabad and a decision is likely to come through in a week, over which the nation would be happy.”

The government of Pakistan has reportedly decided to implement a uniform system in Islamabad under which Azaan (call for prayers) timings will be fixed while Salat (prayers) would be also offered at one particular time throughout the capital.

Responding to a question, Hasnat said a meeting in this regard had taken place on Wednesday, 25 March with scholars from all the sects and an agreement was reached over timings of four prayers.

“Once an agreement is reached, after consultation with the scholars we will bring it to the National Assembly,” the minister said.

A Muslim, both male and female, is expected to pray five times a day. This prayer involves facing Makkah (in Saudi Arabia), usually on a prayer mat or clean surface and reciting prayers which follow a procedure of bowing and prostrating. This typically takes between 5 – 15 minutes depending on the individual. Prayer times are calculated according to the movement of the sun and take place at dawn, midday, late afternoon, dusk and at night.

The first prayer, called “Fajr” is performed before sunrise; the second prayer, “Thuhr” comes just after noon; the third prayer, “Asr,” arrives during mid-afternoon; the fourth prayer, “Maghrib,” is just after sunset; and the last prayer, “Isha,” is performed at night. These prayers are considered an obligation for every Muslim by the time he or she reaches puberty.

Most Muslim men attend the mosque on Friday afternoons for obligatory congregational prayers, and most mosques conduct these prayers at 1.30 p.m.

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Religious Affairs, Pir Aminul Hasnat admitted that there was some opposition to the government plan to have uniform prayer timings. He said efforts were ongoing in some quarters that “wanted to sabotage the effort by propagating a negative impression in the media.”

The minister rejected the notion that “the move was aimed at bringing the Saudi system” to Pakistan, as reported in the media.

Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz MNA Major (retd) Tahir Iqbal had expressed concern over rumours in his constituency Chakwal that loud speakers for Azaan may be banned. The minister clarified that, “there is no such proposal under discussion.”

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