No Ramadan mass prayers in Saudi Arabia's Holy Mosques

CAIRO • Saudi Arabia has extended the suspension of praying in the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet's Mosque in Medina during the fasting month of Ramadan to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques' Affairs said on Twitter on Monday.

The mosques, which are considered Islam's holiest places, will have prayers but without worshippers as a precautionary measure and to intensify disinfection operations, the presidency added.

Saudi Arabia, one of the Middle East's largest economies, on Monday saw its Covid-19 cases rise to 10,484, with 103 deaths.

The announcement reflected what is happening across the region, from cancelled feasts during the breaking of fast to suspended mosque prayers, as the threat of the pandemic lingers.

Several countries' religious authorities have already ruled that prayers during Ramadan and for Hari Raya Aidilfitri on May 24 be performed at home.

Muslims will begin month-long fasting in the Islamic month of Ramadan this Friday.

It is a period for both self-reflection and socialising. Believers fast from dawn to dusk and then usually gather around a family or community meal each evening of Islam's holiest month.

But the fast-spreading virus has threatened to dampen Ramadan like never before, with millions locked down across the Middle East - from Saudi Arabia and Lebanon to the battle zones of Libya, Iraq and Yemen.

More dispiriting for many devout Muslims is the banning of congregational worship, including the terawih nightly prayers, in mosques, with many closed in a bid to slow the contagion.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 22, 2020, with the headline 'No Ramadan mass prayers in Saudi Arabia's Holy Mosques'. Print Edition | Subscribe