इंडियन आवाज़     28 Sep 2023 02:12:09      انڈین آواز

MAKKAH to allow entry from May 31 after 2-month coronavirus shutdown


Saudi Arabia announced a “two-phase normalization plan” early Thursday for Makkah with the aim of easing coronavirus measures and gradually returning to normal life.

The first phase will begin on May 31, when entering and exiting Mecca will be allowed between 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Friday prayers and other congregational prayers at the Grand Mosque (Masjid al-Haram) will continue in line with existing health measures, the statement said. The second phase will begin on June 21 when citizens will be allowed outside between 6 a.m. to 8 pm.

The statement also said that coiffeurs and barbers will not be allowed to open yet while weddings and funerals can be attended by 50 people at most. Saudi Arabia had barred entry or exit from Riyadh, Mekkah and Medina on March 25 to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Islamic Affairs said mosques will be open to the public for the weekly prayers from May 31 until June 20, except in Makkah.

A circular issued to mosque staff by Sheikh Abdullatif bin Abdul Aziz bin Abdul Rahman Al-Asheikh, the Islamic affairs minister, said windows and doors must be open at all times and copies of the Qur’an must be temporarily withdrawn.

“Worshippers must keep two meters apart and leave a row of space empty between each row,” he said.

“They must also wear face masks at all times, bring their own prayer mats and perform ablution at home.”

Imams must ensure worshippers avoid crowding when entering and exiting the mosques and children under 15 are not allowed to enter.

Water coolers and the distribution of food and drinks are not permitted, as well as incense and miswak, which is used to clean teeth. Mosques must also close all toilets and places of ablution.

The instructions follow other announcements in the Kingdom relaxing aspects of the lockdown, including reducing curfews and allowing more movement of people.

The circular to mosque staff also said educational programs and workshops for memorizing the Qur’an should continue remotely online until further notice.

Smaller mosques can open 15 minutes before the call to prayer and should close 10 minutes after they finish.

Mosques with larger crowds can open 20 minutes before prayers and should close 20 minutes after they finish, and the sermon should not last more than 15 minutes.

The Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages, which attract millions of travelers from around the world, will remain suspended until further notice, the ministry said.

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