Largest mosque in S-E Asia to hold Friday prayers in Jakarta despite Covid-19 warning

Indonesian Red Cross workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant outside the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta on March 13, 2020.
Indonesian Red Cross workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant outside the Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta on March 13, 2020.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

JAKARTA (JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta will still hold Friday prayers despite warnings to restrict public gatherings to contain the coronavirus disease (Covid-19). The mosque's management says it is following a decision made by the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

"The mosque's grand imam Nasaruddin Umar has instructed that the Friday mass prayer for this week will be held as usual following the MUI's decision," the mosque's spokesman, Mr Abu Hurairah Abdul Salam, said on Wednesday (March 18), as quoted by Antara.

However, he added that the decision could be altered if the grand imam and MUI issued new instructions.

The management of Istiqlal will not provide the usual prayer mats. This is to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the mosque. The authorities have sprayed disinfectant in the building's interior.

Among the places sprayed with disinfectants were "the place for wudhu (ablutions), the bathroom and the Quran mushaf (manuscript) storage area", Mr Abu said.

Istiqlal Mosque, the largest mosque in South-east Asia, will remain open for Muslims who want to worship. However, they will be asked to leave the mosque after completing their prayers.

Tourists and pilgrims have also been temporarily barred from entering the mosque. This policy has been in place since Monday.

The ulema council previously issued a fatwa allowing Muslims in areas where Covid-19 had spread "uncontrollably" to skip "Friday prayers in those areas until the situation returns to normal". The MUI also urged the government to map areas with outbreaks of Covid-19 following the fatwa.