Kurdistan Region announces Ramadan schedule, 'tight restrictions' to reopen mosques

The inside of a mosque in the Kurdistan Region. (Photo: Kurdistan24)
The inside of a mosque in the Kurdistan Region. (Photo: Kurdistan24)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs announced Tuesday as the beginning of this year's Ramadan and that it had decided to reopen the doors of local mosques for the duration of the holy month of fasting, now closed as part of anti-coronavirus efforts.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has recently witnessed a significant escalation in infections of the highly-contagious disease.

Read More: Kurdistan Region to close places of worship to curb spread of COVID-19

The ministry explained in a statement that Monday would be recognized as is the final day of the month of Sha`ban, according to the Islamic calendar, and that Tuesday will mark the first day of the month of Ramadan.

Religious authorities in most Muslim-majority nations typically declare the exact schedule of the holy month, which can vary a day or so depending on visible stations of the moon, for all those within its borders. In Iraq, however, the faithful from different sects – or in this case, the Kurdistan Region – often end up beginning and ending their month of fasting on divergent dates. 

The Ministry said it had decided to again allow the general public to gather in mosques throughout the region during Ramadan after a meeting held by the KRG's Supreme Committee to Combat Coronavirus, but with new rules.

The "tight restrictions" that mosques and worshipers are required to follow include a limit that evening and Taraweeh prayers must last no more than a combined 35 minutes and that distributing food or beverages either inside and outside mosques has been prohibited.

Among additional new conditions for the reopenings are that worshipers must now perform ablution (washing before prayer) before leaving their homes and they must wear masks and avoid handshakes and other physical contact not only during public prayers, but also when traveling to and from mosques.

Women's halls inside mosques were also ordered to remain closed, while religious sermons will not be allowed following afternoon and evening Ramadan prayers Ramadan, as is customary.

Sermons during Friday prayers must not last more than half an hour.

The Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs threatened to temporarily close any mosque that does not adhere to its guidelines.

Editing by John J. Catherine