Adelani Adepegba, Abuja
As the Ramadan fast begins later this week, Saudi Arabia’s Council of Senior Scholars has urged Muslims around the world to pray at home if they reside in countries that have imposed lockdowns or curfews to curb the coronavirus outbreak.
The Saudi Press Agency reported on Sunday that the authorities advised Muslims to partake in their religious practices, such as praying but refrain from causing harm to others.
“Muslims should set an example by performing their religious duties while adhering to the preventative and precautionary measures issued by relevant authorities in the countries they live in,” the council admonished in a statement.
The scholars urged Muslims to avoid gatherings which they said were the main cause of the spread of the infection.
“Muslims shall avoid gatherings because they are the main cause of the spread of infection and shall remember that preserving the lives of people is a great act that brings them closer to God,” the council noted.
The kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh expressed the same sentiment on Friday.
He said that Muslim prayers during Ramadan and for the subsequent Eid al-Fitr feast should be performed at home if the coronavirus outbreak continues.
Saudi Arabia has reported 8,274 cases of COVID-19 and 92 deaths so far, the highest among the six Gulf Arab states with the total number of cases in the region being 24,374 with 156 deaths.
The Saudi government in mid-March stopped people performing daily prayers and the weekly Friday prayer inside mosques as part of efforts to curb the spread of the disease.
Last week, the Prophet’s Mosque in the holy city of Medina said it was banning events that dispense evening meals in the mosque to those in need during Ramadan to break their daily fast.
Several other Islamic countries including Egypt and the United Arab Emirates have suspended group prayers in mosques until further notice to slow the spread of the virus.