Forcing shops to close during prayers has become at the center of a growing controversy between Saudis internet users on Twitter.
Opponents of the move are circulating a Twitter hashtag that translates as: “forcing shops to close for prayer is organizational.”
Some people say the practice should be annulled; others say shops like pharmacies and gas stations at least should be allowed to open during prayer times.
Ahmed al-Ghamdi, an Islamist scholar, told Al Arabiya News Channel: “There is no doubt that this matter is in contradiction with the Prophet’s teaching because the Prophet did not force people to close their shops and did not hold them accountable if they do not close their shops to pray.”
Al-Ghamdi said the Islamic Sharia advises people to stop doing business during prayer times, but they “must not be forced to close their shops.”
He said there could be “many security and social bad consequences” to the usual practice by the country’s religious police.
“There are damages that are related to this issue. In my view, we must urge people to perform the prayer collectively. But we should keep the closure of shops optional for people.”
“This is the appropriate and suitable thing to do which is in line with religion and its moderation,” Al-Ghamdi added.
Twitter user @hanial7arbi criticized the hashtag, saying: "You left the more important issues of soaring prices, fraud, and sanitation to focus on this [trivial] issue."
Adel al-Noub (@ALNOOB) commented on Twitter saying: "It is not logically sound to close shops, but what can you say…complain to God."
Another user, @Mansour_Sl, said closing shops during prayer times causes "traffic chaos" as drivers speed up “like crazy” to get to open shops before they close.
He blamed the problem on the religious police, which he said tend to "get excited and oppose decisions and jail and frighten poor workers."
"It becomes frustrating waiting for shops to open because prayers can take too long,” Twitter user @Hejazeah said.SHOW MORE