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Egypt backtracks on decision to ban Ramadan night prayers after widespread anger

Muslims attend the mass prayer at the Mosque of Amr ibn al-Aas, to mark Laylat al-Qadr, holiest of the Muslims' five holy nights during the Muslims' holiest month of Ramadan, in Cairo, Egypt on June 21, 2017. [Ahmed Gamil - Anadolu Agency]
Muslims attend the mass prayer at the Mosque of Amr ibn al-Aas, to mark Laylat al-Qadr, holiest of the Muslims' five holy nights during the Muslims' holiest month of Ramadan, in Cairo, Egypt on June 21, 2017. [Ahmed Gamil - Anadolu Agency]

The Egyptian Ministry of Endowments yesterday retracted its decision not to allow the Tahajjud prayer in the last ten days of the blessed month of Ramadan in mosques and public squares, following public anger and widespread discontent.

According to a statement issued yesterday evening, the ministry decided to open "all large and university mosques, in which Friday prayers are held, and which have imams from the endowments ministry to lead worshippers in the Tahajjud prayer, starting from the night of the 27th until the end of the blessed month."

The Endowments ministry had announced on 15 April that mosques would not be allowed to open for i'tikaaf or Tahajjud prayers, claiming this was part of efforts to combat the global coronavirus pandemic, despite the very large decline in the number of cases.

The Ministry of Health announced on Saturday that the average daily number of covid cases was only 89 over the past week, noting that the average daily death toll stood at six.

The ministry also announced, recently, that the hospitals in the governorates of Qena and Beheira were free of any covid patients for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and all the tests conducted in the two governorates were negative.

READ: Cairo's Ramadan street feasts return after coronavirus suspension

The Egyptian Ministry of Endowments had stressed the need for Tarawih prayers not to take more than 30 minutes, after which mosques would be closed until the dawn prayer the next day.

Meanwhile, the Endowments ministry banned Eid Al-Fitr prayers from being performed in squares, saying they will be held in major mosques with a unified sermon lasting no more than ten minutes, amid threats of dismissal and punishment for those who violate these rules.

However, activists on social media have compared the restrictive measures imposed by the state against mosques and worshippers to the unrestricted crowds of people in shopping centres, restaurants, cafes, clubs, and Ramadan tent parties, who do not need to commit to social distancing measures.

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