Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly announced tentative measures to restore Friday prayers, starting August 28, in major mosques after a long hiatus of suspending the weekly religious gatherings, in a bid to curb COVID-19 infections in the country.
The news, which was announced in a press conference on Wednesday as per local news outlets, also revealed that the Friday sermons, would have a time limit of ten minutes. The congregational prayers would still need to respect preventative measures such as the wearing of face-masks and social distancing.
Friday (jum’a) prayers are also known as congregational prayers held every Friday at noon for Muslim adherents. They are traditionally preceded by a sermon (khutba) given by an imam, and are believed to be mandatory for Muslim males but optional for women.
In Egypt, the practice of attending Friday prayer is extremely common and sermons are known to be notoriously long.
In March, Egypt’s Ministry Endowment (Awqaf) issued a moratorium on group prayers and Friday prayers at mosques across the country in response to the public health threats posed by the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
However, at the end of June, mosques and churches had opened their doors to prayers once more, albeit under strict conditions.
The decision to maintain a strict position on houses of worship and their services has been met with criticism. As, with the re-opening of recreational businesses and commercial centers, Egypt’s many public spaces have regained their crowds and gatherings, prompting worry over a strong second ‘wave’ of COVID-19.
Currently, the Ministry of Health estimates that the virus has infected 96,000, with a death toll of over 5,000. It also notes over 60,000 recoveries from the fast-spreading virus which has infected over 22 million worldwide since it first appeared in the Chinese city of Wuhan, in December.