US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Ramadan, the holy month of fasting for Muslims, began on Friday in most Arab countries.
A narrow young crescent moon was spotted Thursday with sunset in Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Kuwait, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia and Syria. Meanwhile, in Oman and some states of North Africa, fasting will not begin until Saturday.
Throughout the month, Muslims should refrain from eating and drinking during the daytime, and the main activity occurs at night, when people talk, watch TV shows, walk and relax. But this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the faithful spend this month in a new reality.
In order to prevent the spread of the infection, the countries took strict restrictive measures, which will continue into Ramadan. In a number of states, some reliefs were made, but not significant.
Mosques are closed
The most difficult for believers was the ban on visiting mosques. Almost all countries obligated the houses of worship to close. In Saudi Arabia, where two of the three shrines of Islam are located, both do not function – the Great (Reserved) Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina. The faithful will not be able to perform the fivefold prayer and tarawih there – a special prayer, which is performed only in Ramadan after the obligatory night prayer and lasts until dawn. “We suffer from the fact that we cannot offer our prayers to the Almighty this Friday,” said Saudi King Salman bin Abdel Aziz Al Saud on Thursday, addressing his subjects on the occasion of the Ramadan. “But we were forced to take extreme measures to avoid spread of the virus.”
In Egypt, religious authorities also made explanations regarding the closure of mosques, urging everyone to pray only at home and not to gather on the roofs for collective prayers, as this is unsafe in every way. In the country of the pyramids, canceled common tables, which are traditionally set for iftar – the first meal with sunset after a day of abstinence – for all comers next to mosques.
Closed prayer houses in Algeria, Morocco, Palestine, Syria and Tunisia. Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem will also not be able to receive believers in the holy month.
Between easing and tightening
Meanwhile, because of ramadan, a number of countries went on some concessions, in particular, reducing the duration of the curfew. So, in Egypt, it was reduced by one hour, allowing relatives and friends to spend iftar together, but from 21:00 to 06:00 the ban on traveling around the cities renews. In the UAE, where there was a round-the-clock regime of strict self-isolation, and you could go out only if absolutely necessary with permission from the police, a curfew was established from 22:00 to 06:00. In the daytime, Dubai was allowed to visit relatives and get together, but in groups of no more than 10 people. From Saturday in the UAE, public transport, metro, taxis resume work, with restrictions shopping centers reopen. Moreover, all residents are required to maintain social distance and wear medical masks and gloves.
In Egypt, authorities allowed shops and shopping centers to work on weekends, which was previously prohibited, but, like on weekdays, only until 17:00.
Bahrain, unlike its neighbors in the Persian Gulf, authorized the holding of public prayers in the Al Fateh Mosque, but there are restrictions: at the same time, there can be imams and no more than five people who are required to maintain social distance. At the same time, all prayers will be broadcast on television so that the majority of the faithful follow them without leaving their homes.
Kuwait, in spite of ramadan, extended vacations for ministries, departments and public organizations until the end of May, and the curfew was increased by three hours this week: now it starts at 16:00 instead of 17:00 and ends at 08:00, and not at 06:00, as it was before. Public meetings were banned in Oman, where an increase in the number of coronavirus infections was recorded, and only a muezzin who calls from the minaret for prayer can enter the mosque.
In Iraq, some restrictions were lifted before Ramadan, in particular, in Baghdad, they allowed movement around the city from 06:00 to 19:00, and some shops opened. Jordan in mid-April banned prayers in mosques during this month, and Amman found himself in round-the-clock isolation – residents of the capital are forbidden to leave their homes. Libya, where the official data on cases is the lowest in the region, has been living in a round-the-clock curfew since the end of March: authorities in the east imposed it on March 18, and the leadership in Tripoli followed this measure four days later. Mosques are closed and there is a ban on mass meetings in Lebanon, which, however, does not prevent residents of some cities from gathering together, including prayers.
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