The United Arab Emirates will reopen mosques for Friday prayers starting from December 4, with worshippers having to observe strict coronavirus precautions, the National Emergency Crisis and Disaster Management Authority (NCEMA) announced on Tuesday.
The UAE had suspended prayer in mosques in mid-March as part of the efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. The authorities had begun gradually reopening mosques on July 1, but Friday prayers remained suspended.
The NCEMA said the move to reopen mosques to Friday group prayers was “an exceptional step acheived through studies conducted by the institutions of the UAE to resume religious activity in places of worship.”
“The Fatwa Council of the UAE issued a fatwa (Islamic directive or edict) that includes an obligaton for all groups of society to fully adhere to health and safety instructions issued by the authorities to prevent the transmission and spread of COVID-19. It’s not permissible to violate this in any way,” the NCEMA added.
The coronavirus precautions for Friday group prayers include limiting the capacity of worshippers in the mosque to 30 percent, allowing prayers in the outer courtyards, broadcasting the prayer over loudspeaker, enforcing keeping a distance of two meters between every two worshippers, and entry and exit movement rules.
“For Friday prayers, mosques will be allowed to open their doors 30 minutes before the prayers start and close the doors 30 minutes after prayers have been performed,” NCEMA said.
Other COVID-19 precautions for Friday prayers include limiting the Friday prayers sermon to no more than 10 minutes, mosque workers and volunteers must organize entry and exit of worshipers, and all worshippers must wear a mask and bring their own prayer matt which must not be left behind in the mosque or shared with anyone else.
“Health procedures also include avoiding exposed surfaces and door handles, adhering to and maintaining spacing and avoiding crowds. We would like to emphasize that worshippers read from their own personal Quran or smart devices, as well as downloading UAE approved health apps and activitation them while attending the prayers in the mosque,” NCEMA said.
Each worshipper must perform wudu or the ablution rite ( the act of washing the face, arms and legs before prayer) at home, and senior citizens, childern, those with chronic diseases or repiratory illnesses and those suffering from weak immunity systems must perform prayers at home, according to a fatwa from the Fatwa Council of the UAE.
“The closure of ablution places, toilets and women’s prayer halls will continue and we announce a change in the times of daily prayers by 15 minutes before the call for prayers and 10 minutes after prayers, except for Maghrib prayer, which will be called 5 minutes before the call for prayer,” NCEMA said.
The NCEMA also banned the distribution of food and water in mosques, and added that mosques and churches will continue to be closed in industrial areas.
The UAE’s coronavirus tally stood at 161,365 confirmed cases, 150,261 recovered patients and 559 deaths.
The NCEMA announced that the rate of positive COVID-19 cases from tests conducted by the country’s healthcare authorities remain at 1 percent, similar to last week.
“This rate is the lowest compared to the European Union, Middle East and North Africa region and countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),” the NCEMA said.
“The death rate decreased to 0.3 percent for the first time since the beginning of monitoring deaths due to COVID-19 in the UAE, which is one of the lowest rates in the world compared to the European Union, the Middle East and North Africa region and OECD,” the authority said.
Al Arabiya English