Why do Pakistanis block roads, cars and houses, in a rush to attend prayer?

Published: November 27, 2015
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Vehicles all around a mosque on a Friday in Discovery Gardens, Dubai. PHOTO: Xpress/Francois Nel

Vehicles all around a mosque on a Friday in Discovery Gardens, Dubai. PHOTO: Xpress/Francois Nel Pakistani Muslims pray on Jumat-ul-wida, the last Friday of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, in Karachi. PHOTO: AP

A popular Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim hadith quotes Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) as saying that once prayer has started, Muslims are not supposed to rush to join in quickly. Instead, they must proceed to the mosque at a calm and normal pace. If they miss any part of the prayer, they should simply complete whatever they missed, rather than making a mad dash to join the rakkah. The intention of this command, clearly, is to avoid creating hassle for yourself or anyone else.

If you live anywhere near a mosque in Karachi, or have travelled to work, school, or even the hospital during prayer time, then you may know how seriously Pakistanis take this teaching.

In a teeming city of over 25 million people, some inconvenience is to be expected, but it seems all courtesy is forgotten during prayer time. Prayer goers, who for whatever reason did not leave for the mosque on time, will consider it perfectly acceptable to rush to their place of worship in their vehicles, breaking signals and perhaps a few bones along the way. Upon arrival, they shall double park and obstruct an entire road, or shall simply block someone’s gate for 15 to 30 minutes, so that they can go inside the mosque while numerous people suffer.

There are several issues with this. The first is that it goes against the teachings of the very religion they are trying to collect sawab (reward) from. While the Prophet (PBUH) didn’t mention cars specifically in the hadith – obviously because they didn’t exist at the time – the principle behind the command to slow down on the way to the mosque is self-explanatory.

Also, the self-righteous folks who behave like this obviously believe that their single contribution to the prayer is worth inconveniencing others, even if the consequences are dire. Months back, I saw an ambulance with sirens wailing stuck during such a situation, and I myself was unable to attend an emergency on one occasion.

But it is worse for people who live close to mosques.

By some coincidence, I have twice lived in a home opposite a mosque; once in the Middle East and once in Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia, not once did someone obstruct our gate during 12 years of living in front of a mosque. On the other hand, in Pakistan, it was customary to find a car cutting off our entrance at least two or three times a day. To make matters worse, the offenders were never apologetic. If anything, they were arrogant in their supposed virtuosity.

Recently, a Karachi resident shared her story on the Facebook page ‘We’ve had enough!!!!’ when someone barricaded her gate with his car in order to go and attend prayer. Sadly, because she was a woman, she only suffered more at the hands of other drivers who impatiently honked at her to move her car from the road while she waited, and chastised her for being a ‘lady driver’.

In response, most were sympathetic:

Not surprisingly, some were absurdly judgmental:

Others explained how upon complaining after facing a similar predicament, they were labelled as ‘yahoodis’ (Jews) by the imam:

Almost every other person suggested violence:

To avoid unpleasantness, a simple solution for worshippers is to park only where there is a legal place to leave a car. By saving yourself a 15-minute walk, you aren’t doing the rest of us any favours. Please don’t inconvenience the rest of us for your convenience.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • MNH

    When it comes to religion, people forget that they are humans and need to show humanity too. Main reasons, to me, are the speeches they hear that subdue everything for prayer. Thus they consider it their obligation to leave their office for much longer time than required for Farz namaz. What if God asks you about the money you earned for doing nothing for the company? Will it be halal?Recommend

  • Sunny

    Its not just prayers, one can see similar attitude at any event be it near wedding halls, schools, colleges, universities, shopping malls, markets, stadiums, offices, music concerts, cinemas, theaters, public parks, zoo and virtually anywhere there is gathering on any sort.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Not just Pakistanis, Muslims of all hypes descend upon the mosques and adjacent spaces – footpaths, streets and flood these causing inconvenience to non-Muslims, by their pray-by-the-numbers approach. This is seen anywhere in India or airports in the West or streets of Brooklyn, you name it….Recommend

  • abhi

    I am confused, shouldn’t everyone be praying at that time? Why some people are trying to drive their car at the time of regular prayers?Recommend

  • Adnan

    Islam is meant to improve society but instead is used by misguided ‘momins’ to degrade it.Recommend

  • Parvez

    We as a people don’t just disobey normal road courtesy in our religious fervor…….but let’s not forget that we also kill in the name of religion and get showered by rose petals by the misguided. So parking wrongly, blocking roads, rushing to prayers ……should not be but can be overlooked.Recommend

  • MTF

    Mos of the liberal fascists will go berserk to read this since for them everything should come from the west even the weekly day off. The weekly day off in Pakistan was Friday and it should be back to Friday, more than half of your parking problems will be solved because people will pray in the masajids that are closer to their residences and would not drive in most cases.Recommend

  • Asad Lashari

    there are so many places where these kind of issues raising day by day just because lack of patience.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    The better title could be this “Why do not Government allow or build more mosque when people have to pray on roads and Streets?”. Think positive be positive.Recommend

  • ارشد حسین

    Say openly “Leave the Prayer”Recommend

  • stevenson

    The author has not seen how people block roads and pathways or generally become a nuisance to others during Friday prayers in North America. Wherever there is a mosque there is never enough parking since Muslims don’t care and say” it will work out in the end so don’t worry”. They don’t care about inconvenience to others. As though people Muslim gives them the right to abuse the rights of others.Muslims in North America send the wrong message of tolerance in Islam when they behave this way.Recommend

  • charles

    Allow towing for cars parked illegally – then Christians and non Muslims can form Companies which tow the vehicles why Muslims pray – cost about $300 to get your car released from a tow yard in the States. Trust me – once you have your car towed you tend to avoid illegal parking.Recommend

  • rafeeq

    What about Ganesh chathurthi and the immense trouble it causes to the commoners both Muslim and Hindu? What about countless other festivals with music blaring for the entire night? This is a common sight especially near to the slums causing immense disruption to everyone. You seem to be fine with itRecommend

  • LOLOLOLOLOLOL

    wait wait wait…. Yahoodis are Jews?? I came to know today most of my classmates ask our teacher if they were Hindu (no offence). our teacher never replies by the way.Recommend

  • Milind A

    Not at all.. All this loudness and garishness needs to be shut down. This loudness, vulgarity during Ganesh festival and other stuff is a corruption of religion.They’re around because these are sponsored by politicians… Point is a sizeable no of educated Hindus will speak out against these practices (me included)…whereas very few among the Muslim community will speak out against blocking of roads during prayer time.Recommend

  • loyalindian

    Sizeable no. of educated Muslims speak against this too! Recommend

  • loyalindian

    If they are parking on legal spaces than that’s not a problem. Such things happen whenever there is a congregation whether Muslim, Hindu, Christian etc. Recommend

  • loyalindian

    Yes. Say openly “leave the prayer”? Right?Recommend