The Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) reversed an earlier decision by the Health Ministry to allow tarawih, a collective Islamic prayer exclusive to the upcoming fasting month Ramadan, at mosques. Diyanet President Ali Erbaş announced on Tuesday that they decided that it would be better for the public to perform prayers at home “based on current circumstances.” He was referring to a raging coronavirus outbreak, which forced authorities to impose additional lockdowns.
Ramadan, a holy month in Islam, will begin in Turkey next week. Tarawih is among prayers required to be performed en masse, preferably at mosques, every evening of the month. Last year, the faithful had to skip them, in the early days of the pandemic. One year on, the outbreak remains a fixture of daily life for millions. Mosques are open for other obligatory collective prayers under Islam, like Friday prayers but all participants are required to wear masks and enforce social distancing, though collective prayers should be performed with no gaps in prayer rows.
Erbaş was speaking at a press briefing about Ramadan in the capital Ankara during which he also explained religious scholars’ views on other pandemic-related issues. One such question that confused the faithful was whether vaccination against the virus would spoil the fast that requires one to abstain from eating and drinking. Erbaş reiterated earlier statements by Diyanet officials on the issue and said vaccination would not break the fast.
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