The Presidency of Religious Affairs (DIB) issued a warning for the faithful on Friday to abstain from collective Friday prayers amid the coronavirus pandemic if they are at high risk of contracting the virus or already infected.
A written statement by the DIB’s High Board of Religious Affairs, which oversees regulations on religious matters, said the outbreak was one of the justifiable excuses like extreme weather conditions that allow Muslims to not attend mandatory prayers. Friday prayers performed at noon are obligatory for able-bodied male Muslims and are required to be performed with congregations, preferably at mosques. The statement says those infected with the coronavirus or who came into contact with an infected person should not join the congregation and are obliged under Islam to comply with quarantine conditions.
Mosques across Turkey were closed to communal prayers in the early months of the outbreak, which made its foray into Turkey in March. They were reopened in May but under strict measures for the faithful, who should wear masks and maintain social distancing. After a relative lull in the summer, Turkey has been witnessing a new surge in the number of coronavirus patients, necessitating new restrictions from curfews to the closure of some businesses. Places of worship were spared from closures.
Unlike other communal prayers that Muslims can perform at home or elsewhere, Friday prayers have a high turnout, and often, the faithful have to perform prayers in the courtyard of mosques and sometimes on the streets around the mosque due to the interior being full.
The statement by the DIB said measures against the pandemic, combined with bad weather, posed a challenge for congregation members to find an empty spot in the mosque. Each member of the congregation has to maintain a distance from others, and those performing prayers outside the mosque have to bring their own prayer mats.
“Those who cannot find a place inside the mosque that would be suitable to maintain social distancing should not enter the mosque in a way that would put both themselves and others at risk,” the statement said. The board said people who can skip Friday prayers under the current circumstances are obliged to perform noon prayers instead.