The Baitul Mukarram National Mosque hosted the Jumma prayer in a limited scale on Friday in line with the Islamic Foundation Bangladesh's earlier advised the devotees not to attend the Friday prayer without taking proper precautions.
The mosque opened its gates after 1:00pm, just after the summons to line up for the prayer.
Imam of the mosque Mawlana Mufti Muhiuddin Kasem performed the prayer with nearly 2,000 Muslims after cutting the sermon off short. The usual Bangla sermon before the prayer was cancelled altogether.
After the prayer, the devotees joined the dua seeking refuge for Bangladesh and the world from the coronavirus. They also prayed for the sick.
A few devotees wearing masks and gloves gathered at the south entrance of the national mosque at around 12:30pm. They were advised to maintain social distance during the prayers.
After the prayer, the imam told the devotees that nearly 50,000 to 1 lakh Muslims pray at the mosque every Friday.
But today we have less than 3,000 devotees, which is painful for me and all of us, he said.
"We are passing through a difficult time. We should repent and follow the guidance of Islam," the imam further said. He echoed the Islamic Foundation instruction on only healthy people attending prayers at the mosques.
"Now nobody knows who is healthy or not. Therefore, we should maintain social distance and avoid large gatherings."
Kasem said mosques will remain open and will call the devotees for prayers. The imam, muezzin and mosque caretakers will also be at the mosques during prayer time.
But Mawlana Kasem reminded people to obey the government order of staying home.
"It is our religious obligation to coordinate with the administration and law enforcers."
The imam of the national mosque also urged the affluent people of the society to lend a hand to the marginalised people.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Islamic Foundation, after consultation with renowned Islamic scholars, advised people not to go to mosques for prayers to contain the coronavirus from spreading.
The foundation said gatherings of devotees could be curtailed during the daily prayers. It also stressed protective measures for the imams and muezzins.
Some mosques still overcrowded
Though the overall presence at mosques was comparatively low, some mosques in the capital were still overcrowded.
Gulistan's Golapshah mosque saw a huge gathering during the Jumma prayer. Many Muslims rolled out mattresses adjacent to the mosque and performed the prayer.
Lines of devotees at the West Panthapath mosque sat took to the nearby roads too.
Devotee Alamgir Hosen said he came to pray as he had no signs of illness.
Some mosques even called the devotees through microphones to boost up the presence for the Jumma prayer.
The East Rajabazar mosque repeatedly requested the devotees, using microphones, to show up for prayers.
Women also took part in Jumma prayer at the Lalmatia Shahi Jame mosque.
However, other mosques, such as the Moghbazar Greenway mosque, discouraged devotees. The religious sermon was also shortened.
"We told the devotees not to come to mosque if anyone feels unwell. Moreover, they have been provided with disinfectant for cleansing," said Mawlana Borhan Uddin of Mohammadpur Geneva Camp mosque.
Muslims at the Eskaton Jame mosque had few devotees with masks and gloves who lined up at safe distances during the prayers. The caretaker of the mosque said they would continue prayers with cautionary measures.
We will be more watchful: Islamic Foundation
Anis Mahmud, director general (Additional Charge) of the Islamic Foundation told The Business Standard that imposing restrictions on Friday prayer is tough and a sensitive matter.
"The first ever decision to avoid gatherings for Friday prayers was not implemented properly. However, some devotees showed carefulness while many others defied protective measures," said Anis Mahmud.
He commented that the foundation will be more watchful about presence, hygiene and personal safety measures in the future. Anis Mahmud said they will also take steps for maintaining social distancing during prayers.