Fatalist attitude overwhelming COVID-19

Fatalist attitude overwhelming COVID-19

On 24th April, at the eve of 1st Taraveeh, PATTAN surveyed 194 mosques and Imam Barghas across Punjab and Islamabad. The purpose was to assess the implementation of an agreement that had been signed between the federal government and the leading clerics of the country on 18th April. The survey found blatant flouting of the said agreement in 80% of the observed mosques.
A couple days later an English daily reported that in Rawalpindi alone more than 500 mosques were warned for not respecting the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). In Lahore according to a police report in 95% mosques the SOPs were violated. The clerics reportedly were warned and in response they might have given some assurance. Isn’t it interesting that violators happen to be those who fully agree with the SOPs? As many as 94% Imams and masjid committee members supported the 20-point agreement, while of the rest, 6 percent didn’t support the agreement but endorsed the SOPs.
But, violation of SOPs continued. Had government made the clerics to implement the agreement, we might not have seen scenes of mobs in bazaars. The threat is being amplified profoundly. In order to understand this PATTAN conducted another survey and respondents were Imams and members of masjid committees along with regular Namazis.
Almost everyone who goes to a mosque to offer his prayers is highly likely to ignore the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for mosques as they think life and death is in God’s hands and praying in the mosque is most desirable in Islam. Nearly 80% of the namazis said they offer three to five prayers including Tara-veeh in congregation in a mosque and only 8% respondents of the survey said they didn’t go to mosque at all. PATTAN didn’t include them in the further survey as its aim was to ascertain the opinions of Muslims who offer regular prayers in a mosque. So it can be assumed that the subsequent respondents have a strong bond with the mosque. In spite of this, there appeared differences between the opinions of namazis and the Imams/masjid committee members regarding the implementation of the 20-point SOPs.
For instance, the survey finds that one-third of namazis point fingers at Imams s for not implementing the SOPs, while only 8% Imams blame themselves. Similarly, both groups hugely disagree about police responsibility in this regard. Only 8% Imams, but 48% namazis, blamed police. In response to another question, 60% namazis said that Imams didnot discipline them to observe the SOPs. On the other hand, when a similar question was asked of the Imams, every Imam said that he tried his best. 39% said they encourage people to follow the SOPs, and 53% claimed they have banned wuzzu, children and elderly from the mosques, and that they exhort people to wear masks and keep a six feet distance. Interestingly, a majority of both groups (85% of namazis and 64% of Imams) said that the SOPs have not been implemented in their mosques.Were police helping the mosque to implement the SOPs? Both groups disagreed with each other hugely on this question too. Nearly 75% of the Namazis said saying prayers and Taraveeh in mosque is preferred in Islam and life and death is in God’s hands. Not a surprising reply. However, what may amaze readers is that in response to the same question, 50% Imams mentioned secular reasons for ignoring the SOPs.
Moreover, it seems that changing attitudes and manners is not easy. It is fair therefore to conclude from our data and observation that most people are highly likely to continue with their pre-existing attitudes and mannerism during the pandemic too.
For instance, a large majority of Pakistanis religiously and culturally believe life and death is in God’s hands. The same belief is being practiced when media is showing deaths of tens of thousands of corona virus affected people. This fatalist attitude stops us from adopting safety measures in day to day life too. For instance, not wearing of helmet while riding motorbike.As it has now been established that social distancing and wearing of mask are the most effective measure to prevent the spread of Covid19, and given that the clerics had agreed to implement the SOPs, it is imperative for the government to improve compliance of these safety measures. This is extremely needed now and in the long term.
The country cannot afford half-hearted measures as they will not give the desired results. The media is urged to educate the public more aggressively and civil society must assist marginalised and poor communities as their vulnerabilities have deepened.