Saudi Arabia reopens mosques including Masjid-e-Nabawi after coronavirus lockdown

Riyadh: Saudi Arabia’s 90,000 mosques opened their doors to worshipers on Sunday for the first time in more than two months, Saudi state news agency SPA reported. Worshipers though have been ordered to follow strict guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the Grand Mosque in Makkah, which houses the cube-shaped Kaaba that Muslims around the world pray toward, will remain closed to the public. The city has been under a strict lock down for several weeks. Masjid-e-Nabawi (The Prophet’s Mosque) in Madinah will be partially opened limiting the congregation to 40 percent of the mosque’s capacity at a time.

The government has asked people to keep a distance of two meters between rows, wear face masks and to bring their own prayer mats.

The elderly, children under 15 and people with chronic diseases are not permitted. People must perform the ablution rite, the act of washing the face, arms and legs before prayer, at home.

Mosques will be opened 15 minutes before the call to prayer and will close 10 minutes after prayer.

The first call to prayer on Fridays will start 20 minutes before prayer time, and mosques will be opened 20 minutes before and will close 20 minutes after. The Friday sermon prayer should not exceed 15 minutes, authorities warned.

Saudi authorities said earlier this month that restrictions would be lifted in three phases, culminating in a curfew ending on June 21, with the exception of the holy city of Makkah.

The continued closure of Makkah points to the increasing likelihood that the kingdom may suspend this year’s annual Muslim hajj pilgrimage, which falls in late July. The Umrah pilgrimage, which attract millions of Muslims from around the world, remain suspended.

The Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem that had been closed since mid-March reopened for prayers today. Worshipers waited outside the gates, many wearing surgical masks. As they entered, they were stopped to have their temperature taken.