An eerie vacancy enveloped the sacred Kaaba in Mecca’s Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest website, the place attendance at Friday prayers was hit by measures to guard towards the lethal new coronavirus.
An imam stated throughout his sermon he hoped for an finish to the epidemic and backed a choice by Saudi Arabia’s authorities to halt the year-round umrah pilgrimage.
“God, I search refuge in you from the calamity and the epidemic,” stated Sheikh Abdullah Awad al-Juhani, with out mentioning coronavirus by identify.
“The measures by the dominion to droop umrah to restrict the unfold of this epidemic are according to texts of the Sharia,” he advised worshippers.
Whereas hundreds of individuals attended the sermon, Friday prayers often appeal to lots of of hundreds of worshippers.
“I had a really unusual and troublesome feeling as I used to be headed to the mosque,” an Egyptian worshipper, who has lived in Mecca for six years however didn’t wish to give his identify, advised AFP.
“I felt disadvantaged of the Kaaba,” he stated, referring to the dice construction that’s the point of interest of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black material.
“The truth that it’s empty (across the Kaaba) may be very scary,” the 38-year-old engineer stated.
The white tiles surrounding this focus, on the coronary heart of the Grand Mosque and round which Muslims circle in pilgrimage, had been untrodden on Friday.
Authorities had emptied the Grand Mosque for sterilisation on Thursday, after asserting the halt to the umrah.
Friday “prayers happened contained in the mosque and on the higher flooring however not within the tawaf space” the place folks circle the Kaaba, a mosque authority advised AFP.
Almost half of the mosque’s space was closed, he added.
The world across the Kaaba will stay closed at some stage in the umrah suspension as a “precautionary measure”, however prayers contained in the mosque will proceed, the state-run Saudi Press Company (SPA) reported.
Moreover, each the Grand Mosque and the Prophet’s Mosque within the Muslim holy metropolis of Medina will likely be closed an hour after the night “Isha” prayer to permit cleansing and sterilisation, it added.
The mosques will reopen an hour earlier than the daybreak “Fajr” prayer.
– Disenchanted pilgrims –
The strikes come after authorities final week suspended visas for the umrah and barred residents from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council from coming into Mecca and Medina.
The umrah, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca that may be undertaken at any time of 12 months, attracts thousands and thousands of Muslims from throughout the globe yearly.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday declared three new coronavirus instances, bringing the entire variety of reported infections to 5.
A Saudi official blamed Iran, which has emerged as a significant hotspot with a demise toll of 124, for “granting Saudi residents entry to its territories with out stamping their passports”, based on the SPA.
This assertion adopted an announcement by the well being ministry that Saudis examined constructive after getting back from the Islamic republic through Bahrain with out disclosing their preliminary level of departure.
Saudi Arabia’s unprecedented transfer to halt the umrah has left hundreds of Muslim pilgrims in limbo, elevating uncertainty over the annual hajj to Mecca scheduled for the top of July.
Some 2.5 million devoted travelled to Saudi Arabia from internationally in 2019 to participate within the hajj, which is without doubt one of the 5 pillars of Islam, as Muslim obligations are recognized.
The occasion is an enormous logistical problem for Saudi authorities, with colossal crowds cramming into comparatively small holy websites, making attendees susceptible to contagion.
Already reeling from slumping oil costs, the Saudi kingdom dangers shedding billions of {dollars} yearly from non secular tourism because it tightens entry to the websites.
Turkish pilgrim Hussameddine Ali, who arrived within the kingdom final week earlier than the choice to halt the umrah, expressed disappointment that he was not allowed near the Kaaba.
“I’ll in all probability return to Turkey,” he advised AFP.
“We’re sitting within the resort the entire time… what are we doing (right here)?”