Minister of State for Religious Affairs Pir Aminul Hasnat recently told the National Assembly that the Government is consulting religious scholars from all sects to introduce a revolutionary new system of uniform prayer timings in the capital city. The Minister said that a decision on the proposed system is expected in the next week which would make the whole nation ‘happy’. The Minister also said that there are some forces who want to sabotage the effort of uniform prayer timings by propagating a negative image in the media. After enforcing the system in Islamabad the Government wants to implement it in other cities too. As part of this new initiative all businesses will remain closed during the prayer timings, special arrangements will be made in Government offices for ablution. A similar step was also initiated back in 2014 under the name of ‘Tanfeez-i-Salaat’ in KPK (known as NWFP back then), however the Government of NWFP failed to implement it.
There is indeed a great need to bring the different sects close but it is hard to see that how a uniform prayer time could bridge the gap between various sects. Interestingly most of the mosques in the Federal capital were built on the basis of sects. It is hard to see how a superficial step like this will bridge the gap between different sects. The step will also pose a difficulty for worshippers, the current varied prayer times allow a person to offer prayers at a time of his convenience. When the whole city offers prayers at one time specially the Jummah prayer, the surge will traffic at that particular time will almost choke the city’s traffic. The Ministry of religious affairs needs to come up with an intellectual narrative instead of recycling old ideas which have already proved ineffective. The intent of the Ministry to bring different sects closer is praise worthy but the proposal doesn’t have much substance to it.