"Immunised" Muslim pilgrims in Mecca as Ramadan begins
Pilgrims immunised against coronavirus circled Islam's holiest site in Saudi Arabia's Mecca city on Tuesday as they performed the year-round umrah pilgrimage on the first day of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Mask-clad worshippers entered Mecca's Grand Mosque in batches to perform the ritual of circling the sacred Kaaba, a cubic structure towards which Muslims around the world pray, along socially distanced paths.
Only immunised pilgrims are eligible for permits to perform the pilgrimage and to attend prayers in the Grand Mosque during Ramadan, the hajj and umrah ministry announced earlier this month.
According to the ministry, three categories of people are considered "immunised" – those who have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine, those administered a single dose at least 14 days prior, and people who have recovered from the infection.
The policy has effectively raised the Grand Mosque's capacity during Ramadan to accommodate 50,000 umrah pilgrims and 100,000 worshippers per day, according to state media.
Ramadan during coronavirus
Whatever you believe, faith can help in troubled times. But what happens when mosques close, when places of worship no longer offer a place to go? During the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims around the world have found ways of coping with the situation. By Marko Langer
Gazing at the heavens: it is possible to pray alone – even if the mosques are otherwise well attended during Ramadan. But a carpet on the roof of a house in the metropolis of Colombo, Sri Lanka makes a passable alternative. With his hands together and his gaze directed towards the sky, this boy awaits the end of the day's fast
As clean as a new pin: it doesn't bear imagining what would happen if the usual crowds of people were to throng around the Kaaba in Mecca. A few believers nevertheless came to the Great Mosque on the first day of Ramadan. But the vast majority of the people in this picture are cleaners, whose work is particularly important now
Breaking the fast despite coronavirus: according to Central European criteria, this family's get-together in Malwana, Sri Lanka would not be in the spirit of the fight against COVID-19. What is important here is the ritual breaking of the fast – iftar – during Ramadan, not social distancing. There is food in abundance, concluding prayers are said – and then the family shares what they have brought with them
Praying at a safe distance: in Israel, it is said, the rules for containing the coronavirus pandemic are being strictly adhered to. The Palestinian men who have gathered here for prayer in a car park on Jaffa beach are no exception. The lines of the parking spaces help to keep the carpets at the required distance from the person next door
Prayers with a mask and the Internet: it is a great help to Imam Bambang Suprianto in the Indonesian capital Jakarta that this city would hardly function without mobile phones and the Internet anyway. So he can read from the Koran and say prayers live on the Internet – from the Sunda Kelapa Mosque via social media. Suprianto also serves as a role model, reciting the words with mouth and nose protection
Ramadan writ large: not that the Muslims in Daerborn, Michigan have forgotten the month of fasting. But the staff of the community centre where the Masjid-Al-Salaam-Mosque is located, announced the beginning of Ramadan in big letters. "Ramadan Kareem" gives believers an encouraging motto to take with them and translates roughly as "Have a generous Ramadan"
Digital mosque: many people say that Germany lags behind when it comes to the Internet. Be that as it may: Benjamin Idriz is Imam of the Islamic Forum in the Upper Bavarian city of Penzberg, and he too is using his mobile phone to post his recitation of the Koran on the Internet afterwards. Even in this image detail it becomes clear why the mosque opened in 2005 won an award for its architecture
No-one to admire the illuminations: not only the Galata Tower in the Istanbul district of Beyoglu is deserted this evening. The authorities have also decreed that the mosques in Turkey will remain closed, regardless of Ramadan. Turkey is also struggling with COVID-19. And so while the bird's eye view of Istanbul at night remains picturesque, it is also somewhat oppressive
The call of the muezzin: for some in Kathmandu it is still business as usual. On the first day of the holy month this muezzin rises up and recites the Azan, the Islamic call to prayer. Despite the coronavirus pandemic, the call to communal prayer will continue to be heard several times a day in the capital of Nepal
An exhibition hall serves just as well: the modern exhibition building in Singapore is actually intended for completely different things. However, economic activity has come to a standstill worldwide, and a sales show in the "Expo Convention Hall and Exhibition Centre" is unlikely to take place any time soon. The building has now been converted into a facility where patients can recover from their COVID-19 disease and pray during Ramadan
It is unclear whether the policy, which comes amid an uptick in coronavirus infections in the kingdom, would be extended to the annual hajj pilgrimage later this year.
In late July last year, the kingdom hosted a downsized hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime.
Only up to 10,000 Muslim residents of Saudi Arabia itself were allowed to take part, a far cry from the 2.5 million Muslims from around the world who participated in 2019.
Saudi Arabia has reported more than 400,000 coronavirus infections and 6,700 deaths from COVID-19.
The daytime fasting month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam.
Observant Muslims refrain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk, and traditionally gather with family and friends to break their fast in the evening. (AFP)