SINGAPORE – Mr. Mohamed Fadly was delighted to have secured an online slot for a Friday prayer service at the mosque three weeks ago.
It was the first time the 37-year-old had entered a mosque since March, when all 70 mosques here were closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Congregation prayers were allowed to resume on June 26.
That day, Mr. Fadly, who has prayed at home and watched sermons on YouTube for the past several months, showed up at Al-Istighfar Mosque in Pasir Ris for his first Friday prayer session at 1 p.m. .
Even though the sermon was shorter than usual, nothing beats hearing it in person, he says.
“I feel grateful and grateful, and I hope things improve and more devotees can participate in Friday prayers.”
Mr. Fadly, who works in the security industry, was among the lucky devotees who managed to secure a slot for a Friday prayer session, each limited to 50 people.
Worshipers are only allowed to enter the mosque if they have a reservation, which they can make through an online system operated by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis). To allow more worshipers to perform Friday prayers, each person can only reserve one time slot every three weeks.
There was an overwhelming demand for the limited slots – unsurprisingly, since Friday services typically draw capacity crowds.
On June 26, mosques resumed service with two sessions. Because the sessions have gone well in recent weeks, 48 mosques have added an additional session starting Friday July 17th.
Along with SafeEntry check-ins, temperature checks, and wearing a mask, there are several other safe management practices that devotees should adhere to.
Mr. Fadly says he had to use his own prayer mat and stay in a designated area 1m away from other worshipers.
The imam who led the prayers, Ustaz Maaz Salim, delivered his sermon with a face shield and stood 2m from the first row of worshipers.
The mosque had to turn away several people who were unaware of the new guidelines. Some did not get a reservation, while others did not bring their prayer items.
But overall, the sessions went well, notes Mr. Azman Mohd Ariffin, executive chairman of Al-Istighfar.
“We feel blessed that we can now do the Friday prayers. The number of worshipers may be low at the moment, but it is the first small step,” said the 57-year-old, adding that the spaces prayer rings are thoroughly cleaned before and after each session. .
Since mosques were forced to close on March 13 – after two Singaporeans who attended a mass religious rally in Selangor, Malaysia, tested positive for Covid-19 – Muis has taken a cautious approach.
The increase in sessions was carried out in accordance with advice issued by the multi-ministerial working group on the coronavirus and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, when more religious activities were allowed to resume in the phase of them.
Mosques are ready to act quickly if it turns out that an infected person has visited their premises. When it was discovered that one of these people had visited Al-Ansar Mosque in Bedok North eight times for evening prayer between June 26 and July 2, it was closed for two days for cleaning. and disinfection. It has since reopened and resumed prayer services.
Many other activities of the mosque remain on hold or have been adjusted.
For example, the annual korban ritual during Hari Raya Haji, which falls on July 31, will not take place in Singapore this year. Instead, mosques will organize the sacrificial slaughter of cattle in Australia. The meat will then be refrigerated and shipped here.
Mosques’ social media channels are also active with live broadcasts and pre-recorded videos.
In April, Muis launched a web channel called SalamSG TV, which offers religious lectures and videos in Malay, Tamil, English and Bengali to meet the needs of Muslim foreign workers here.
Educational activities have also moved online. Madrasah classes for young Muslims now take place on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.
Mr. Azryn Yek’s 10-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter attend online classes every Saturday at Jamiyah Ar-Rabitah Mosque in Bukit Merah.
“My kids miss the personal touch of their teachers in physical classes,” says the 42-year-old, who works in the building solutions industry.
“And I look forward to the day when we can all return to mosques.”