Saudi shops close during prayers Image Credit: Social Media

Manama: Amid reports that Saudi Shura Council will soon debate whether to maintain the deep-rooted tradition of shutting down shops during prayers, Saudis flocked to social media to express their support and opposition to the proposal of suspending all activities.

Yahya Al Samaan, assistant president of the advisory body, on Sunday said that the proposal calling for keeping shops open during prayers was being studied by the competent committee ahead of referring it to the Shura members for debate.

All markets, shops, petrol stations and facilities come to a standstill during the performance of the prayers in Saudi Arabia in order to allow employees and people to perform them on time.

Several Saudis have been pushing for reducing the wait time between Adhan (the call to prayers) and prayers from the current 25 minutes to five minutes in commercial malls.

The long wait has been applied in regular worshipping sites outside malls in order to enable people to reach the mosques and to do the ablutions required for the prayers.

However, as commercial malls have applied the same rules, business people, labour officials and columnists have been pushing for limiting the waiting time.

Recently, some Saudis have been calling for abandoning the habit of suspending all activities during prayers, arguing that many women and children were left waiting near shops and non-Muslims standing idly for up to 40 minutes that include the call, the waiting time and the performance of the prayers.

The debate on the issue has now gained in intensity on social media with each camp resorting to religious, social and economic arguments and emotional and rational appeals to back up their views.

Monwat Ahmedeh said that those who cannot tolerate the shutting down of shops for 20 minutes for prayers do not mind waiting for more than five hours to purchase tickets to watch singers such Kadhem Al Saher or Majed Al Mohandas. They are willing to stand without any problems or signs of boredom. These are facts that cannot be denied. Why is waiting for prayers for 20 minutes horrendous and intolerable?

Maryam posted pictures of a street sweeper taking time off to offer prayers and of a sign indicating that the shop was closed and inviting customers to join worshippers at the mosque.

“Some of the most beautiful pictures and words I have ever seen and read … They took everything off their minds in order to perform prayers,” she posted.

Love Life depicted a picture of what happens when shops are shut down.

“Shop staff go behind shops to smoke; young men go to their cars and wait there for the re-opening of the shops; women and children sit in front of shops. In short, there is no sense in shutting down shops for prayers,” Love Life posted.

Saleh said that he supported closing shops and markets during prayer times.

However, he insisted that fuel stations should remain open at all times.

“This is a personal opinion and I expect that everyone agrees with me,” he posted.

Another user tweeted from an economy point of view, saying that profits would increase "Probably 90% of my time would be efficiently spent if they truly made that happen. Looking at it from the economic level, they’ll definitely notice increase in profits from the time lost in closing stores. Its all about opportunity cost y’all."