Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims, where they observe fasting from dawn to dusk for the entire month. During Ramadan (Ramzan), Muslims engage in several additional prayers that are not part of the routine all year long. Supplications such as Taraweeh, Tahajjud, Itikaf hold high importance in the Islamic community.

Mecca, Medina shut during Ramadan

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, mass gatherings are restricted everywhere, which includes the world's two holiest Islamic sites - Mecca and Medina. In a statement released by Saudi Arabia's crowned price King Salman, he said that Mecca and Medina would remain shut during Ramadan, which is an equally busy time for pilgrims to visit the holy sites as it is during the time of Hajj.

Grand Mosque Mecca
General view of the Kaaba at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi ArabiaReuters

"It pains me to welcome the glorious month of Ramadan under circumstances that forbid us of prayers in Mosques and of performing the Ramadan prayers of Tarawieh and Qiyam in House of Allah. All this is due to the protective measures taken to save lives and human wellbeing in light of the global threat of COVID-19," King Salman was quoted as saying by state-run SPA news agency.

Taraweeh, Itikaf, Eid prayers suspended in grand mosques

Taraweeh is congregational prayers offered in the month of Ramadan. In these prayers, which are offered in large groups, the Quran is recited and completed in the period of one month. The Taraweeh prayers commence with the sighting of the moon and ends when the Eid is announced.

Empty Mataf area in Kaaba
Empty Mataf area in Kaaba due to coronavirus

But due to the coronavirus pandemic, the prayers of Taraweeh are suspended for the public in the grand mosques of Mecca and Medina. However, the Taraweeh prayers will be attended by "the mosques' general presidency's officials, as well as sterilization workers," Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais said.

Taraweeh at Mecca
Taraweeh at Mecca

In addition, the Saudi authorities have suspended Itikaaf, during which Muslims spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in mosques. The prayers of Tahajjud, which are offered in the midnight, are also suspended in the holy mosques.

The Saudi Grand Mufti, Abdulaziz Al-Sheikh, asked Muslims to perform Taraweeh and Eid prayers at homes this year.