By Lobsang DS Subirana
Bangkok Desk, Jun 26 (efe-epa).- Singapore partially reopened the doors to its mosques Friday, months after they were shut because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, in a move that looks to slowly normalize life in the city-state.
Muslims in the country were once again allowed to gather for Friday prayers via an online booking system limited to 50 people per session under strict social distancing measures according to the country’s Islamic authority.
“On this blessed Friday, we also begin the resumption of congregational prayers at the mosques. We understand that many have been looking forward to Friday prayers, and so have we,” the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore wrote Friday morning on its official Facebook page.
Worshipers who attended the sessions had to book their slot via an online application system developed by the council and were restricted to one of two 30-minute sermons that mosques began to offer for Friday’s Salaat al-Jummah as well as regular daily prayers.
The council said devotees would only be allowed to book one Friday session every three weeks to ensure opportunities to attend are distributed equally among Muslims in the country.
“We seek the cooperation and understanding of all congregants in ensuring that the congregational prayers will proceed smoothly and orderly for everyone,” Friday’s post read, adding that mosque staff would guide worshipers who faced any difficulty.
The post was followed by a checklist outlining the necessary precautionary measures attendees are required to follow prior to and during their visits to the mosques. It said worshipers would be required to perform ablutions at home, bring their own prayer mats and wear masks throughout their visits.
It also discouraged those over 60, under 12 and people with respiratory problems from booking sessions.
The council added that people would not be allowed to mingle inside the mosque and urged them to return home immediately after prayer, which it said would take place in designated spaces of 1-meter apart under an Imam standing at least 2-meters from the nearest worshiper.
The pandemic has been especially harsh on Muslims worldwide, whose annual Hajj pilgrimage this year – meant to run from Jul. 28 to Aug. 2 – has been all but canceled.
The Hajj is part of a Muslim’s obligations and if possible, must be performed at least once in a lifetime. It involves a trip to the holy city of Mecca, in Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad.
Mohammed Saleh Bente, Saudi Arabia’s minister of Hajj and Umrah, said Tuesday in a televised address that attendance would be limited to 10,000 people this year. Last year’s pilgrimage drew 2.5 million people, according to the country’s authorities.
Singapore’s council has indefinitely suspended all applications for this year’s Hajj, as the majority of Muslims are expected to miss their opportunity in 2020.
“Kindly note that fresh applications for Hajj have been temporarily suspended until further notice,” a statement on their website read. EFE-EPA