Turkey’s Presidency of Religious Affairs (DİB), urged healthy Muslims to observe the upcoming Islamic month of fasting Ramadan on Tuesday as the faithful grapple with the deadly COVID-19 outbreak.
The High Board of Religious Affairs of the presidency said in a statement on Tuesday that the fasting is obligatory for all able-bodied Muslims. Citing views of medical experts, the board said fasting did not pose any risk for the spreading of the outbreak. The statement also notes scientific evidence that fasting boosts the body’s immunity, something essential against viruses.
COVID-19 patients can be exempted if doctors determine that their health will deteriorate while fasting, the board says. Health care workers, whose health can be affected or whose fasting can affect their health care services are also exempt. However, once their health conditions improve, they will have to fast later to compensate for the missed time.
The religious authority had earlier announced that mosques will remain closed for collective tarawih, evening prayers exclusive to Ramadan, throughout the holy month. Mosques are already closed to other congregational prayers like Friday prayers.
The board has also called on the faithful to avoid hosting or attending iftar (evening meal used to end Ramadan fast) dinners with friends or relatives as a precaution against the pandemic for which experts call for social distancing and self-isolation.
Muslims in Turkey will start a daily fast on April 24. Fasting, held from dawn to dusk during Ramadan, is one of the Five Pillars (fundamental religious duties) of Islam.