Saudi Arabia suspends prayer in mosques, exempts holy Makkah and Madinah sites, amendment in ‘Azan’ also made for advice

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RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has decided to suspend congregational prayers across all mosques in the Kingdom, except for the Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah.  The decision announced Tuesday encourages Muslims to pray at home rather than mosques to avoid the spread of the coronavirus.

A statement on SPA said it is allowed religiously to suspend all group prayers in mosques, including the weekly Friday prayers. 

Saudi Arabia, Mar 06 (ANI): General view of Kaaba at the Grand Mosque which is almost empty of worshippers, after Saudi authority suspended umrah (Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca) amid the fear of coronavirus outbreak, at Muslim holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia March 6, 2020. REUTERS PHOTO)

The Two Holy Mosques in Makkah and Madinah are exempted from the decision, it said. 

“Mosque doors will be closed temporarily but they will be allowed to recite the call to prayer,” the statement said. It also said an amendment has been made to the call in which the usual phrase “come to prayer” in the Arabic call has been replaced with “pray at home.” The new phrase can also be translated as “pray where you are”.

The statement said that a special congregational prayer on Fridays at midday can now be performed by Muslims at home.

Islamic Affairs Minister Abdulatif Al-Sheikh said facilities for washing the dead at mosques would remain open but access would be restricted to a few people. Praying over the dead will be permitted only at the cemetery, not in the mosque, he said.