RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s highest religious body, the Council of Senior Scholars, urged Muslims worldwide to pray at home during Ramadan if their countries require social distancing to curb the spread of the coronavirus, state news agency SPA reported on Sunday.
The holy fasting month of Ramadan begins later this week. During the month, believers usually break their fast with families and friends and perform an evening prayer, known as Taraweeh, in large gatherings at mosques.
“Muslims shall avoid gatherings, because they are the main cause of the spread of infection…and shall remember that preserving the lives of people is a great act that brings them closer to God,” it said in a statement.
The kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh on Friday expressed the same sentiment, saying that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Saudi Arabia has reported 8,274 cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, and 92 deaths so far, the highest among the six Gulf Arab states where the total has reached 24,374 with 156 deaths.
The Saudi government in mid-March stopped people performing their five daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer inside mosques as part of efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Last week, the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina said it was banning events that dispense evening meals in the mosque to those in need during Ramadan to break their daily fast.
Reporting by Ghaida Ghantous and Marwa Rashad; Editing by Alex Richardson