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Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti says Ramadan prayers to be held at home

As the number of coronavirus cases in the kingdom surpasses 7,000, the country's grand mufti suspended group prayers in mosques.
Saudis attend prayers marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan in Central Riyadh September 20, 2009. Eid al-fitr marks the end of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, during which Muslims around the world abstain from eating, drinking and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset.   REUTERS/Fahad Shadeed    (SAUDI ARABIA RELIGION SOCIETY) - GM1E59K16BL01

Prayers during the month of Ramadan should take place at home, Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti said, as the number of coronavirus cases in the kingdom topped 7,000 on Friday.

The highest religious authority in Saudi Arabia, Grand Mufti Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh, said the evening and Eid al-Fitr prayers will not be held in mosques or large groups this year. 

The kingdom reported 762 new cases of the coronavirus Friday, bringing the total number to 7,142 with 87 deaths.

Congregational and weekly Friday prayers inside mosques were already banned under restrictions announced by the Saudi government in March. Weeks later, Saudi Arabia announced it would no longer issue visas for Muslims wanting to visit the holy sites of Mecca and Medina.

The government has also suspended the year-round pilgrimage, known as umrah, and authorities are currently advising Muslims to delay making travel plans for the hajj this July and August. 

With the holy month of Ramadan starting next week, governments in the region have rolled out new measures to stem the spread of the virus as Muslims prepare for their monthlong fast. 

Jordan and Egypt are among the countries that will not allow public worship in mosques. In Jerusalem’s Old City, the Al-Aqsa mosque, where the Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven, will remain closed.

Dubai, meanwhile, has relaxed restrictions to allow Muslims to prepare for iftar, the meal that marks the end of the day's fast. Food stores have reopened so residents of the emirate have time to shop for meals ahead of Ramadan.

In Turkey, the government says it will repatriate 25,000 of its citizens stranded in nearly 60 countries so they can spend the month with their families.

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