Citizens in the Indonesian regency of Demak, East Java now have a couple of hours every evening during which they are advised by the regional government to set aside their friends for God.
On Jan. 2, the regent of Demak, HM Nasir, issued a circular advising the prohibition of social visits in the hours between the lead up to maghrib (sunset) and isha (evening) prayers for Muslims.
The circular outlines that social visits — both in terms of receiving guests and visiting others’ homes — are advised against between the hours of 5pm to 7pm, “so the people and families use this time to read the Quran/learn about religion or general knowledge.”
Parties and other forms of celebrations are prohibited during this time unless permission is obtained from officials, and provided that such events do not violate the region’s ethical norms.
Visiting the sick, funerals, and religious events are exempt from the rule.
The circular notes that it is a follow up to a previous circular promoting a regional movement to switch TVs off during maghrib so citizens read the Quran instead.
As advisories generally go, no specific sanctions were mentioned in the circular and there has been no indication yet that Demak authorities would police its citizens’ religious piety. Nonetheless, the circular has attracted a fair bit of criticism after it went viral in Indonesia this week.
“Guests are king. That’s why social visits at any time should be allowed. If these advisories become law, then what will they be punished with? Why would anyone punish social visits?” East Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo told Kompas today.
“If the idea is not to create a distraction during prayer time, then the host can ask the guest to pray together.”
Conversely, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI), the highest Islamic clerical body in the country, expressed support for HM Nasir.