Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 3 July 2020

A ‘wonderful feeling’: worshippers return to mosques in Saudi Arabia

Dawn prayers were a joyful experience for Saudi's returning to their places of worship

A Saudi man wearing a protective face mask performs the Al Fajr prayer inside the Al Rajhi Mosque, after the announcement of the easing of lockdown measures. Reuters
A Saudi man wearing a protective face mask performs the Al Fajr prayer inside the Al Rajhi Mosque, after the announcement of the easing of lockdown measures. Reuters

Muslims in Saudi Arabia returned to mosques for the first time in almost two months Sunday morning as part of the second phase of a government plan to ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Mosques across the kingdom opened their doors and courtyards, except in Makkah, which remains locked down.

In Ahmed bin Hanbal mosque in Jeddah’s Rawdah district, worshippers at Al Fajr prayer wore protective masks and maintained a distance of two metres between one another.

Worshippers were asked to bring their own prayer mats and prayer leaders shortened their sermons to lessen the risk of exposure to the virus.

Walking from the mosque with his prayer mat tucked under one arm, 45-year-old Mohammed Al Hazani greeted his neighbours from afar, waving in place of handshakes.

Mr Al Hazani expressed his gratitude at being able to resume mass prayers.

“It is a wonderful feeling to pray in the mosque after more than two months,” he told The National as he was leaving the mosque, but urged his fellow worshippers to keep adhering to social distancing measures.

“It is time to show our responsibility after all measures have been implemented by the government.”

Abdul Fatah Hassan, an Egyptian resident of Jeddah has missed his visits to the mosque.

“We have been waiting for this moment and today it is a historical day for all of us here in Saudi Arabia and we really appreciate what the Saudi government has done since the break of Coronavirus. From now, it is our duty to obey the rules set by the government.”

Many of those praying at the mosque were aware of and promoting government advice on the coronavirus, which has infected 83,384 and killed 480 in the kingdom.

“Worshippers inside the mosque seem to be very happy to pray [and conduct] their rituals in groups after praying at their homes during the last 74 days,” Adel Ba Hamdan, a 38-year-old government employee, said.

“They have awaited this moment of return to mosques," he added.

In preparation for the reopening, the country’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs said it had cleaned and sanitised over 90,000 mosques, 43 million copies of several sizes and volumes of the Quran and more than 600,000 Quran cupboards, in addition to repairing and maintaining about 176,000 water closets.

The resumption of communal worship was regulated by strict guidelines to minimise infection risks, including the limiting of opening times, opening of windows and the closure of ablution areas and water fountains, among other measures.

Updated: May 31, 2020 03:46 PM

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