A group of businessmen are voicing concerns about the impact of closing businesses during prayer times in Saudi Arabia saying the Islamic tradition is damaging to the economy, Al Arabiya TV reported Saturday.
Abdulah al-Ahmed, CEO of al-Bandar Group told Al Arabiya TV show “Meet the Press” with Dawood al-Shirian that closing down shops during prayer times causes “severe” financial damages to his group, adding that employees’ productivity is also negatively affected.
Dr. Fahad bin Jumaa, a writer and an expert in economics said that shutting down markets five times a day leads to an increase in workload on employees, especially in medium and small-size enterprises.
" There are no judicial articles that state punishment for those who do not comply, and the problem lays in the notion that shops are closed to force people to pray "
Dr. Saad Mattar al-Otaibi, professor of Sharia Policy at the Higher Institute for the Judiciary
Muslims are required to pray five times a day, as the prayers are considered to be one of the five pillars of Islam besides fasting, almsgiving, pilgrimage, and believing in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad.
Proponents of closing the shops say that it is a religious duty to pray and it is important for the country where Islam originates from to maintain this tradition.
Dr. Saad Mattar al-Otaibi, professor of Sharia Policy at the Higher Institute for the Judiciary in Riyadh explained that closing the markets during prayer time was practiced during the time of Prophet Mohammed and also later during his companions’ era.
“There are no judicial articles that state punishment for those who do not comply, and the problem lays in the notion that shops are closed to force people to pray” al-Otaibi added.
Asked about the possible economic damage incurred by closing down the businesses, al-Otaibi said that Islamic philosophy has resolved the issue by putting money at the service of religion and not the opposite.
“One should not read religion from a purely materialistic point of view,” he added.
Meanwhile, judicial researcher, Abdulah al-Owait, said that there is no legal basis for closing down shops.
And in contrast to al-Otaibi, he said that “protecting money should be at the frontier of religious priority, and not closing the stores will also give a better Islamic attribute to the country.”
Recent statistics reveal that the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice has 23,710 reported cases of people not praying or not closing down their shops, and the number of detained for violating the these two criteria reached up to 25,000.
After four warnings if violations if found, shops will be closed for 24 hours, and 48 hours if the shop owners were warned for the fifth time.
In very rare cases, continuous violations will reach to courts.
Undersecretary of the Ministry of Religious Endowments and Guidance ,Dr. Tawfiq Al-Sudairy said that the ministry is performing a study to help in the considerations of reducing the length of time between the call of prayer (Azan) and to actually pray.
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