Javid Amin, Journalist based in Kashmir (J&K). Printer, Publisher, Editor of "Weekly Shohrat - Kashmir" (Print Edition) as well owner of online news portals www.KashmirPost.org / www.KashmirInFocus.com. Aimed at putting Kashmir and its issues on the global platform. An extensively traveled person enjoys writing.

After remaining closed for more than 21 weeks following the COVID-19 pandemic, congregational Friday prayers were held first time at Jamia Masjid, Dargah Hazratbal, Charar-e-Sharief and other shrines in the Valley.

The religious places across Jammu Kashmir reopened on August 18 after a gap of five months to contain the spread of COVID-19.

The administration had urged devotees to follow proper guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs).

For the ease of those coming for prayers, the Anjuman Auqaf Jamia Masjid had put in place all the SOPs and other preventive measures including providing free masks and keeping the sanitizers inside the Masjid and putting up posters of guidelines to be followed.

Religious shrines and Masjids were closed by the authorities to check the spread of COVID-19.
Emotional scenes were witnessed at Jamia Masjid and Dargah Hazratbal and people were seen following SOPs advised by the government.

Talking to media persons, an elderly woman from Srinagar, who offered prayers at the Jamia Masid, said that a long wait has come to an end as the Masjid was closed for prayers for the past one year.
“It is very hard to say how happy we are. We have been waiting from the past one year to offer prayers here,” she said.

Another resident from Qamarwari, Muhammad Younis said they were thankful to the Almigty Allah as they were not able to offer congregational prayers during the past five months.

“Everybody is aware of the importance of precautions during this pandemic. Though we used to offer prayers in our local Masjids for the last few weeks but the opening of the Jamia Masjid fills us with hope and gives us solace,” he said.

On August 4, the administration ordered the reopening of religious places across Jammu and Kashmir from August 16 while asking the devotees to follow proper guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) like no large gatherings and no touching of statues.

A statement issued by the management of Jamia Masjid (Anjuman Auqaf) said, “Alhamdulillah, the congregational Friday prayers were offered at the historic and central Jamia Masjid Srinagar after a gap of 21 weeks due to COVID-19 pandemic.”

“As soon as the Azaan (call for prayer) echoed from the minarets, a large number of people including men and women started rushing toward the grand Masjid and offered the congregational Friday prayers observing all measures of physical distancing and other SOPs including wearing of face masks, being implemented by the Anjuman.”

However, the people on the occasion missed their beloved leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq who is under house arrest for more than a year now, it said.

On the occasion, people made special prayers seeking refuge from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, and the drought-like situation in the Valley and other problems and challenges Kashmiris are facing.

“Dar-ul-Khair Mirwaiz Manzil had put in place the arrangements for providing free masks to those who had come to the Grand Masjid without face masks, a practice that will continue for all prayers at the Masjid, ” the statement said.

Similarly, Friday prayers were held at prominent shrines including Dargah Hazratbal, Charar-e-Sharief shrine, Dastgeer Sahab at Khanyar, Khankah-e-Moula and other shrines in Kashmir.

However, Friday prayers were not held at Makdoom Sahab shrine as the administration has decided to reopen for prayers from Saturday.