Saudi Shoura council to review stores’ closure during prayer times

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A Shoura Council member is all set to present a draft to the consultative body recommending hospitals, pharmacies and shopping malls remain open during prayer times.

Issa Al-Ghaith said the closures, enforced by the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Haia), are applied due to official instructions and there is no Shariah law to that effect. The draft will also recommend amendment of several regulations of the Haia, Al-Eqtisadiah Arabic daily reported Thursday.

Al-Ghaith said several new regulations that replace old ones affecting the way the Haia functions have not been made public yet and encouraged the commission to publish its new regulations and explain the role of its staffers to the general public.

He also said the commission does not have a right to close gas stations located outside city limits as travelers are not required to perform congregational prayers while traveling.

Haia spokesman Turki Al-Shulail said he was unaware of any new regulations. Meanwhile, a study prepared by the Jurisprudence Research Center for Contemporary Issues at Imam Mohammad Bin Saud University has called for the closure of stores located within city limits during prayer times. The recommendation was made to encourage the public to take part in congregational prayers at mosques. Installations outside of city limits were exempt from the closures.

Ayedh Al-Selemi, a center member, said the study also recommended reducing the time between the call to prayer (Adhan) and the actual holding of the prayer (Iqamah).

“There are differences between scholars on whether or not congregational prayers are obligatory. It is currently obligatory because of the Kingdom’s laws,” he was quoted as saying.

Abdullah Al-Elweet, member of the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution (BIP), said the argument congregational prayers to be obligatory is weak and criticized those who force the public to pray immediately after the Adhan.

“Even if it is likely, it should not be imposed, as compulsion is against Islamic teachings. The Hadith (saying of the Prophet — peace be upon him) which counts congregational prayers 27 times better than individual prayers, clearly points out that congregational prayers are not compulsory,” he said while adding that public should not be forced to follow the opinion of a select few scholars.

“Prayer times are not limited to the period immediately after Adhan and there is usually plenty of time to perform prayers. This sort of thinking is similar to obliging Muslims to make up missed Ramadan fasts during the month of Shawwal,” he added.

Dr. Mohammad Al-Sa’eedi, professor at Makkah’s Umm Al-Qura University, criticized those who object to the closure of stores during prayer times. He said that closing stores during prayers glorifies the Shariah, regardless of whether congregational prayers are compulsory or not. Al-Sa’eedi believes that those who object to the closure of stores during prayers are influenced by the “slogans of freedom.”

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette.

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