(Apr. 15, 2021) Between March 30 and April 7, 2021, authorities in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Kuwait announced new preventive measures to combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus during the Islamic holy month of the Ramadan. The month of Ramadan began on April 12 and runs through May 12.
On April 7, 2021, the minister of Islamic affairs in Saudi Arabia announced that meals to break the daily fast in Ramadan must not take place inside mosques. The practice of i‘tikaaf—praying in seclusion for a number of days in a mosque during the month of Ramadan—is suspended as well.
The General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has announced that it will grant individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19 permission to visit the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina. The General Presidency has also declared that it will increase the capacity of the Grand Mosque in Mecca to enable 50,000 vaccinated people to perform the ‘umrah rituals during the month of Ramadan, as well as increase the number of vaccinated daily worshipers inside the mosque to 100,000 persons during Ramadan. Saudi authorities consider people to be immunized if (1) they have received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, (2) 14 days has elapsed since they received the first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, or (3) they have recovered from the COVID-19.
According to the Ministry of Interior, persons who enter the Grand Mosque to perform ‘umrah rituals without permits will be fined 10,000 Saudi riyals (about US$2,666). Likewise, persons who go inside the Grand Mosque to pray without a permit will be fined 1,000 riyals (about US$266).
On March 31, 2021, Egypt’s Supreme Committee for the Management of the Coronavirus Crisis announced new preventive measures to curb the spread of the virus during the month of Ramadan. The measures require all worshipers participating in taraweeh prayers—special lengthy congregational prayers performed at night during the month of Ramadan—to wear masks inside mosques. Moreover, the time for taraweeh prayers has been reduced to 30 minutes.
The committee also announced that immediate monetary fines would be imposed on persons who are not wearing face masks in public places and on public transportation and that charity iftaar tables (public charity meals to break the fast) and i‘tikaaf are banned during the month of Ramadan. Additionally, any large gatherings inside mosques, including funerals, are prohibited. Finally, the Ministry of Religious Endowments will monitor whether mosques adhere to the aforementioned measures.
On March 31, 2021, Dr. Khaled Al-Jarallah, the head of Kuwait’s Coronavirus Higher Advisory Committee, was quoted as saying that the transmission of the coronavirus continues to be high in all governorates because social distancing measures and the one-month nightly curfew imposed on March 7, 2021, were allegedly “not being observed.” Accordingly, the 12-hour curfew from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., which was adjusted to 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. on March 23, will remain in effect during the month of Ramadan. On April 3, 2021, the Kuwaiti government also announced that, starting April 8, 2021, the curfew hours would change back to 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. and remain in effect for two weeks.
In addition, the City of Kuwait, Kuwait’s capital, has proposed a full lockdown during the last 10 days of Ramadan if the health situation does not improve and has reduced the duration of taraweeh prayers during Ramadan. Religious leaders have also stated that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine and a PCR test do not constitute breaking a person’s fast during Ramadan.