Saudi Arabia opens mosques for prayers, sans the Grand Mosque in Mecca
Mosques opened across the country on Sunday except in the holy city of Mecca to curb the spread of the coronavirus [Reuters]

Muslims in Saudi Arabia heaved a sigh of relief as tens of thousands of mosques opened for prayers after two months as part of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Although, Islam’s most holy site- The Grand Mosque in Mecca -hasn’t yet been opened for worship, close to 90,000 mosques have been opened in Saudi Arabia, with strict guidelines in place.

However, Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, in Jerusalem has been opened for worship after being closed in mid-March.

Strict social distancing is put in place for worshippers. A minimum of two-meters between every worshipper is to be maintained and the wearing of face masks at all times are compulsory. The traditional greeting of hugging is also prohibited during worship.

Strict ‘no’ for children and elders

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, has informed the public that children under 15 years are not allowed inside mosques. Elders and sick persons have been advised to pray from home.

However visuals showed social distancing was not strictly followed and, people thronged to the mosques even before it opened on Sunday (31.5.20).

Washrooms in the mosques are closed and people have been advised to perform the mandatory ablution at home. Also, worshippers should bring their own prayer rugs and the Quaran.

Restricted timings

The mosques will open just 15 minutes before each prayer and close 10 minutes after they conclude. All prayers and Friday sermons are restricted to 15 minutes.

Saudi authorities have said that the Grand Mosque in Mecca, housing the Kabba, will remain closed to the public.

The annual Muslim Pilgrimages the Hajj and Umrah, for which millions from around the world throng, remain suspended.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs tweeted, “Worshippers rushed to the home of God to perform their obligatory duty (prayers) after the reopening of mosques”.

Saudi Arabia has reported nearly 500 deaths due to the Corona virus infection, the highest among the seven Gulf Arab states.

The nation housing Islam’s holiest shrines have also reported more than 80,000 infections.