Mosque’s prayer halls reopen

MEMBERS of the congregation were able to visit the Shah Jahan Mosque’s prayer halls for the first time in more than four months on Saturday.

The historic place of worship in Woking opened for prayers soon after 4am, with strict precautions in place to prevent coronavirus infections.

From left, Deputy Mayor Cllr Saj Hussain; Imam Hafiz Hashmi; the High Commissioner for Pakistan, Mohammad Nefees Zakaria; Woking MP Jonathan Lord

It had closed for the first time in its 131-year history because of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, with all worship, including Friday prayers, cancelled.

The mosque manager, Muhammad Habib, said volunteers had worked hard to set up social distancing and sanitising measures for prayer sessions.

“We take the temperature of everyone who comes to pray and record their details for test and trace purposes,” he said. “Everyone is given a facemask and a bag for their shoes.

“There is a one-way system in the halls, with an entrance and exit, and markers to ensure worshippers are the correct distance apart.”

Mr Habib said many of the older and more-vulnerable members of the congregation were still staying at home, but there was a steady flow of people arriving to worship throughout the day. The final session was at 10.45pm.

“We are expecting more people for the first Friday prayers, but not as many as usual,” he added. Around 1,500 people have typically attended the weekly prayer sessions in the past.

The High Commissioner for Pakistan, Mohammad Nafees Zakaria – who is chairman of the mosque’s board of visitors – visited the mosque in the afternoon to mark the official reopening.

See the 9 July edition of the News & Mail for more details

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