Srinagar, Mar 13: Congregational Friday prayers were offered across the valley with clerics stressing on precautions to tackle the coronavirus pandemic. Fear of infection had triggered a debate on public and social media platforms whether the congregation prayers should take place or people should be asked to offer namaz at home. Leading the chorus was Mayor of Srinagar Municipal Corporation Junaid Azim Mattu, who had advocated avoiding congregational prayers on Friday. Top cleric Maulana Rehmatullah Mir Qasmi, however, said the coronavirus should not deter people from praying and seeking salvation. Mufti Ahmad Sayeed of Darul-Uloom-Bilaliya, Srinagar told The Kashmir Monitor that congregational prayers are mandatory.It is a religious obligation to keep oneself neat and clean. Besides, precautions can be taken but congregational Friday prayers have to be offered, he said. Mufti noted that people should perform ablution five times a day and avoid fiddling with infectious substances. It is not necessary to shake hands. Muslims can greet each other with salaam. All people irrespective of their faith should perform their religious duties. An atmosphere of fear should not be created that could restrict people from discharging religious duties, he said. Citing the pandemic during the time of prophets, he said people should maintain hygiene. But congregation prayers cannot be offered at home, he said. Another religious cleric Mufti Zia-ul-Haq said gathering can be restricted for Friday congregations under such circumstances. In such occasions, people can offer prayers in small gatherings. The prayers are not necessary to be offered in mosques and can be held in open space. Friday means congregational prayers as there is mandatory khutba (speech) by the cleric. If anybody offers prayers on Friday at home, it can be called Zuhr prayers and not Jummah prayers, Haq added. On Friday, congregation prayers were held across Kashmir with people in large numbers turning out to offer special prayers. Before namaz, authorities fumigated areas around Jamia Masjid, Khanqah-e-Muala and Dastageer Sahab in the old city where devotees in large numbers turned up for prayers.