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Saudi Arabia allows itikaf at Holy Mosques after two years

Saudi Arabia has launched the 'Road to Makkah' initiative. Source: Saudi Gazette.

MAKKAH: Saudi Arabia will resume the itikaf ritual at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah during the upcoming holy month of Ramazan after a hiatus of two years.

This was announced by Dr Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, Saudi media reported. He said the presidency will start issuing permits through its official website soon and that will be in line with the specific conditions and set criteria.

Itikaf, the ritual of staying in a mosque solely for the purpose of worship and meditation, was suspended at the Two Holy Mosques during Ramazan in 2020 following the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic. The suspension of itikaf continued during the Ramadan of 2021 as a precautionary measure to stem the spread of coronavirus.

As many as 100,000 worshipers used to perform itikaf in the two mosques during the last 10 days of Ramadan. In 2019, the presidency had allotted rooftops of the mosques for itikaf with separate shelves and safes.

Each worshipper is given their own locker with key for keep their belongings, which include a prayer rug, pillow, light bed sheet and ihram clothes. The presidency has also launched an online portal to give guidelines and registration facilities for the prospective worshippers intending to perform itikaf.

Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia lifted most Covid restrictions including social distancing in public spaces and quarantine for vaccinated arrivals to facilitate the arrival of pilgrims. Masks will only be required in closed spaces, according to the decision, which came into effect on March 6.

In 2020, when the Holy Mosques reopened for the public, strict restrictions such as social distancing and wearing of masks were imposed. Visas were also not being issued to pilgrims across the world, including Pakistan. The kingdom will no longer require vaccinated travellers to provide a negative PCR or rapid test before their arrival in the kingdom or to quarantine.

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