Amid the growing number of coronavirus cases in the kingdom, Saudi Arabia has reportedly decided to suspend the nightly Taraweeh prayers during the upcoming holy month of Ramadan at the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina in a bid to curb the virus from spreading further.

Saudi authorities have announced that the five daily prayers along with the special Taraweeh prayers which are performed at night during the upcoming month of Ramadan will be held in the Two Holy Mosques – Al-Masjid-al-Haram (The Grand Mosque in Mecca) and Al-Masjid a Nabawi (The Prophet Muhammad mosque in Medina).

However, the prayers will be held without any worshippers or public attendance, according to Abdul Rahman As-Sudais, President of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques. "The Salatul Taraweeh in Ramadan will be performed mainly with staff at the Two Holy Mosques," As-Sudais said in a statement on Twitter.

Reduced duration of nightly Ramadan prayers

Singapore Haj quota
A Saudi policeman (R) stands watch as muslims touch and pray at the door of the Kaaba and touch and kiss the al-Hajr al-Aswad "Black Stone" during their Umrah Mawlid al-Nabawi "Birthday of Prophet Mohammad" in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia January 18, 201 Reuters

Saudi Arabia has also decided to reduce the duration of the Taraweeh prayers to just ten 'rakats' - the prescribed movements and words followed by Muslims while offering prayers to Allah. The Taraweeh prayers normally consist of 20 rakats.

Unlike the five daily prayers which are Fardh or obligatory, the Taraweeh prayers are Sunnah or recommended, and they can be performed in full (20 rakats) or in eight or ten rakats under certain situations, according to the Islamic faith.

No Islamic isolation in the Two Holy Mosques

The ritual of 'Itikaf'- the Islamic practice of going into spiritual isolation or seclusion in a mosque – will also be suspended in the Holy Mosque in Mecca and in the Prophet Muhammed mosque during Ramadan, As Sudais said in the statement.

Iftar meals will be distributed

Meanwhile, the official confirmed that parcels of Iftar meals for breaking fast will be distributed in Mecca and Medina during Ramadan after a decision was taken to halt serving the Iftar meals at the Two Holy Mosques to contain the spread of the virus.

He added that the meals will be distributed in concert with authorities in both the cities (Mecca and Medina). The statement also said that the year-round Umrah pilgrimage will remain suspended until further notice.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has also urged pilgrims to deter their preparations for the annual Hajj pilgrimage this year until there is further clarity on the coronavirus pandemic. The Hajj pilgrimage falls July-end this year.

Coronavirus cases surge in Saudi Arabia

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia surpassed the 10,000 COVID-19 cases mark and reported more than 100 deaths on Monday, April 20. The Saudi Health Ministry has confirmed that the kingdom has so far reported 10,484 cases of COVID-19 infection and 103 fatalities.

The holy month of Ramadan

The Muslim holy month of Ramadan begins Friday, April 24, and runs till May 24. During the holy month, Muslims around the world observe daily fasting from dawn to dusk, breaking their daily fast at a specified time called Iftar in the evening. They also keep away from all vices and offer the five obligatory daily prayers along with special night prayers called Taraweeh all month long, during which the verses of the Quran are to be read.