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Coronavirus Fears Derail Friday Prayers For Muslims Across The World

Come Friday, few places will show the effects of the coronavirus more vividly than mosques across the world — not so much for what will be there, as what won't: Friday prayers have been curtailed or outright suspended in more than a dozen majority-Muslim countries across the world.

The list of countries to close mosques to mass gatherings or issue widespread bans includes Turkey and Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, Jordan and Malaysia — along with a growing collection of others.

"Islam doesn't permit practices that would put human life in danger," Ali Erbaş, head of religious affairs in Turkey, said earlier this week, citing the example of the Prophet Muhammad.

"Until the danger for the contagion disappears, prayers in congregations will be suspended," he added. "Instead of Friday prayer, [Muslims] can continue the noon prayer at their own homes."

In Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, the country's highest religious body recommended the closure of mosques to Friday prayers across the kingdom, with the exception of the two grand mosques in Mecca and Medina. The suspension is in place "until further notice," according to the state-run Saudi Press Agency.

The decision to suspend prayers was not universal, however. In Indonesia, the most populous Muslim-majority country in the world, authorities are allowing group prayers to proceed at what's believed to be the largest mosque in Southeast Asia, the massive Istiqlal Mosque in Jakarta.

Though authorities say they are taking precautions: The mosque's interior has been sprayed with disinfectants, and the Jakarta Post reports that officials there will not provide prayer mats as usual.

The country's highest religious authority, the Indonesian Ulema Council, also issued a nationwide ruling allowing Muslims to temporarily skip Friday prayers in regions where the virus has spread "uncontrollably."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.