Authorities in Kuwait have cancelled communal prayers, with mosques across the country broadcasting an altered call to prayer telling believers to “pray in your homes” amid fears such large gatherings could aid the spread of Covid-19.
In historic footage shared on social media, loudspeakers at mosques in the small Gulf state can be heard emitting a changed adhan, or call to prayer – something unthinkable for many Muslims.
Mosques across the globe have shared the same call to prayer five times a day for centuries.
On Friday, Kuwaiti mosques changed the words hayya ‘ala as-salah (come to prayer) to as-salatu fi buyutikum (pray in your homes).
The cancellation of all five daily prayers held in mosques will be in place until further notice, the Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs said on Friday.
Kuwait has reported 100 cases of Covid-19, most of which have been connected to travel to Iran. The country has also shuttered schools and universities in an attempt to prevent the virus’ spread.
Islamic authorities suspend pilgrimages, prayers
It is not the first drastic measure religious authorities in the region have taken to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
After first cancelling visas for foreigners looking to make the voluntary Umrah pilgrimage last month, Saudi Arabia extended the ban to citizens and residents last week.
Images of a deserted Great Mosque in the holy city of Mecca shocked the world.
Although the mosque has not been closed, the mataf area surrounding the Kaaba was briefly closed for cleaning. However, worshippers have been banned from touching the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam.
Saudi authorities have yet to determine whether the Covid-19 pandemic will prompt the cancellation of the annual Hajj pilgrimage, set to take place in July.
In Jerusalem, the Islamic waqf that oversees Islam’s third holiest site, the Al-Aqsa mosque, did not suspend Friday prayers but encouraged worshippers to pray outside in courtyards rather than within the mosque itself to avoid overcrowding.
In Iran, the country worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak in the region, authorities have cancelled Friday prayers in major cities and restricted entry to some of the world’s most-visited Shia Muslim pilgrimage sites.
More than 500 Iranians have died from the Covid-19 illness and over 11,000 infections have been confirmed.
Iraq has also suspended Friday prayers in some areas of the country, as have Shia Muslim authorities in Lebanon.
In Turkey, the state religious ministry held off from cancelling Friday prayers but told worshippers it was acceptable to stay home rather than pray at a mosque.
Friday prayers are considered to be obligatory for Muslim men but, as with fasting, the religion allows for special exemptions for the ill and elderly.