Worshippers continue to be banned from visiting the holy precincts in Mecca and Medina, Saudi Arabia, where masajid were seen empty for the first time in centuries. (AFP)

From the Muslim Journal Newswire

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Since March 19, 2020, congregational prayers at masajid/mosques in Mecca and Medina have been suspended in an attempt to contain the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

In mid-April, the Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance announced that Taraweeh prayers during Ramadan would be suspended and should only be performed at home. 

Abdul Latif Al Sheikh, the minister of Islamic affairs, told local media, “The suspension of performing the five daily prayers at mosques is more important than the suspension of Taraweeh prayers.” 

“We ask Allah the Almighty to accept Taraweeh prayers whether held at mosques, or homes, which we think is better for people’s health.”  Al Sheikh added that the instructions to stay home were in line with advice from the health ministry.

Additionally, in line with the instructions and precautions issued by the Ministry of Health and relevant authorities, when it comes to Janazahs (Muslim funerals), five to six people from the deceased’s family are to perform funeral prayers for the dead. 

Al Sheikh emphasized, “This is a precaution in line with the prohibition of gatherings, so that funeral prayers take place at cemeteries should not exceed five to six of the deceased’s relatives, and the rest pray at their homes.”

The advisory states that the suspension of congregational prayers would not be lifted until the end of coronavirus pandemic.

On Feb. 27, Saudi Arabia temporarily suspended travel to the country’s holiest sites amid fears that the Coronavirus would spread. This suspension impacted Umrah and unofficially is expected to impact this year’s Hajj.

On April 12, the Saudi authorities stated that the capital Riyadh and other big cities were placed under a 24-hour curfew to stem the spread of the virus. The country of some 30 million people has recorded 4,033 infections with 52 deaths, the highest among the six Gulf Arab States.

Members of the Saudi Royal family have also been tested positive with the coronavirus. Note at Muslim Journal press time, there were 6,380 total COVID-19 cases, of those 83 deaths and 990 had recovered.

Established in 1993, The Saudi Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance is a Saudi government agency responsible for overseeing Islam affairs, maintaining mosques and supervising King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur’an.

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