Muslims wear protective masks while attending Friday prayers inside the Al-Azhar mosque in the ancient Islamic region of Cairo, while Egypt is stepping up efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cairo, Egypt March 20, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)
Egypt's Dar Al-Iftaa said on Thursday that performing Friday’s prayers at home was not religiously “forbidden” if the worshipper was suspicious of infecting others or being infected by someone with the coronavirus during the attendance of prayers inside mosques.
According to the country’s highest religious authority’s statement, the Friday prayers can be substituted by the Dhuhr (Afternoon) prayer instead to reduce gatherings inside mosques.
As for those who have tested positive for coronavirus, the authority stressed that it’s “religiously forbidden” to attend the prayer as it would be “an intentional deed to harm others, particularly if the infected person knows that the illness is contagious.”
As the country is currently witnessing a rebound in coronavirus daily infections, Dar Al-Iftaa appealed to citizens to adhere to precautions, the decisions of authorities, and preventive measures in order to spread a coronavirus protection culture during gatherings.
“Attendees of Friday prayers should follow preventive measures like maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks, using personal prayer rugs, avoiding shaking hands, and using cleansers and disinfectants,” Dar Al-Iftaa said.
The Friday prayer is a congregational prayer that must be held and attended at mosques every Friday at noon. In Islam, group prayers are considered preferable to praying by oneself.
Earlier in December, the Coptic Orthodox Church announced the suspension of Sunday schools, meetings, and other services in Cairo and Alexandria due to rising numbers of coronavirus. However, Egypt’s ministry of endowments denied in late November reports circulated on a number of news websites that mosques will be shutdown in anticipation of a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The ministry said its decision to reopen mosques for daily prayers in late June after three months of closure due to the pandemic “is still in effect”.
Egypt allowed a gradual reopening of mosques on 27 June after they had closed in March as part of the government’s precautionary measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Mosques opened for Friday's noon prayers on 28 August.
Government officials continue to urge the public to commit to precautionary measures against the pandemic amid a spike in daily reported cases.
President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and Prime Minister Mostafa Madboudly have repeatedly called on authorities to strictly enforce the country’s face mask mandate, which applies to all public transportation and indoor public spaces.
Egypt has recorded so far 123,153 coronavirus cases since February, including 6,990 fatalities and 105,719 recoveries.