Saudi Arabia resists suspending prayers in holy cities over coronavirus

Riyadh, Mar 17 (efe-epa).- Saudi Arabia on Tuesday decided to suspend congregational prayers at mosques, except in the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars, which gathers the experts of Islamic law known as Sharia, ordered the suspension of the gatherings of the faithful and Friday’s prayers, the most important of the week, to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, according to the SPA state-run news agency.

However, the decision excluded the holiest two mosques in the world, al-Haram al-Makki and al-Haram al-Nabawi located in the cities of Mecca and Medina respectively.

Islam’s prophet Mohammad is believed to be buried in Medina’s mosque, according to the traditions.

The measure comes into force today until further notice, the experts said after a meeting they held in Riyadh.

The call for prayer will be sung as usual through loudspeakers, but calling on the faithful people to pray at home, the experts added.

The experts supported their decision by citing the Koran, Islam’s holy book, and sayings of the prophet, according to which these restrictions were previously taken in cases of epidemics in the time of Muhammad.

Last month, the Saudi authorities decided to ban access to pilgrims from around the world as well as the residents to the two holy mosques.

Millions of faithful visit the holy cities across the whole year for minor pilgrimage known as “Umrah” and once a year for the pilgrimage, one of Islam’s five pillars.

China has been the most affected country by the new coronavirus, after it emerged in Wuhan, the capital city of the central province of Hubei, in December.

The virus has spread across the world with nearly 170,000 cases in 148 countries and regions.

The death toll stands at over 6,500 and so far 77,250 people have recovered from the disease.

Saudi Arabia has reported 133 confirmed coronavirus cases, according to the most recent figures issued by the World Health Organization.

It has been declared a pandemic by the WHO. EFE-EPA


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