Dubai: Some mosques look set to re-open as early as Sunday based on social media posts on Wednesday showing preparations and precautionary measures in full swing.
However, there is no official word yet on when the mosques will re-open, or which emirate or emirates in the UAE the unofficial social media posts relate to.
Mosques and other places of worship across the country were ordered to close in mid-March as a precaution against the coronavirus outbreak to prevent gatherings and close contact between people.
When contacted, officials of Islamic affairs authorities in Abu Dhabi and Sharjah told Gulf News they have not sent out updates or issued guidelines (as seen on social media) related to the re-opening of mosques. Relevant officials in Dubai too have not yet released such information to media or the public.
However, posters headlined with “Islamic Affairs & Charitable Affairs Department” (IACAD) of Dubai, about social distancing for worshippers, have reportedly been seen at some mosques and were also shared on Wednesday by social media users.
‘New normal’ for mosques?
In one of the short videos showing preparations at an undisclosed mosque, an off-camera man says “we will open on Sunday, God willing”.
Round yellow markings can also be seen being placed on the lines of rows, indicating where worshippers should stand, leaving a wide gap between each other as well as between rows. Only alternative rows will be lined up instead of all rows.
Another clip shows disposable blue paper sheets to be placed at the site of prostration to avoid the forehead and hands touching the carpet. The purported IACAD poster asks worshippers to bring their own prayer rugs to the mosques and it is understood the paper sheets are for those who have no rug of their own. The single-use sheets can be placed in recycling bins after prayer.
Pictures of “disposable prayer mats” in supermarket shelves have also gone online.
Shifting of Quran copies
The footage also showing shelves of copies of the Quran being emptied. According to a post circulating on WhatsApp, representatives of mosques have been directed to shift the Quran copies and other books to storage areas If there is no storage, they are advised to move the copies and any reading materials to the front of the mosque until further notice.
Worshippers will be asked to refrain from touching the Quran, according to the post, which does not mention which government department the instructions are from.
No dates announced
No date for reopening the doors of mosques to the public has been announced yet by the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department. However, guidelines for reopening mosques have started appearing outside Dubai’s mosques.
Dr. Ali Ahmad Masha’el, Grand Mufti at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department in Dubai, said: “There are signs about the reopening of mosques soon, but we have not received an official confirmation about the date of the reopening.”
As per the guidelines, women’s prayer halls will remain closed until further notice and people under 12 and over 60 will not be allowed to enter.
An empty row should be left between every two rows of worshippers and there should a 1.5 metre gap between each of them. Worshippers must wear gloves and face masks and bring their own prayer rug.
Mosques will only be open for 20 minutes for each prayer of the daily five prayers. The doors will be left open, but the mosque will close immediately after the completion of prayers.
Other guidelines include that bathrooms and ablution areas will remain closed and no distribution of food, drinks or otherwise. Worshippers are not allowed to shake hands and can only wave from a distance.
Those who suffer from chronic diseases or have weak immunity are not allowed to enter mosques.