An aerial view of the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Registration for the Islamic ritual of Itikaf or seclusion at the Grand Mosque in Mecca will open on the first of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan after a two-year hiatus, Saudi authorities have said.

Itikaf means a Muslim stays at a mosque for the sole purpose of worshipping and coming closer to Allah, following the example of the Prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him.

The ritual is usually performed in the last 10 ten days of the lunar month of Ramadan, which is expected to begin this year on Saturday, April 2.

The General Presidency for Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques has set registration for the ritual at the Grand Mosque, Islam’s holiest site, until Ramadan 5, Okaz newspaper has reported. Registration is carried out via Al Haramain Al Sharifian app or the presidency website.

The presidency’s Guidance Affairs Agency has set up a booth to take care of the Itikaf worshippers' affairs, situated in front of the mosque’s King Abdullah gate in the western courtyard of the holy site.

“It is necessary [for worshippers] to cooperate with the personnel and avoid violation of the regulations applied inside the Grand Mosque,” said Badr Al Fareeh, the presidency’s deputy head for guidance affairs.

He added that the presidency bears no responsibility for the loss of the Itikaf worshippers’ personal effects.

Last week, the presidency announced the return of Itikaf during Ramadan to the Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque in Medina after a suspension of two years due to COVID-19. Worshippers wishing to go into Itikaf are required to get permits.

Saudi Arabia this month lifted most COVID-19 restrictions amid a marked drop in infections in the country.

This included scrapping physical distancing among worshippers at the Grand Mosque and the Prophet Mohammed's Mosque. Still, worshippers are required to wear face masks.