For three nights, people will be able to visit mosques whilst respecting sanitation protocols. Wearing masks and social distancing are compulsory. Volunteers are disinfecting people and monitoring their movements. Worshippers bring their own mat and Qurʼān. For many, this is a joyful reunion to pray together again.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Despite the fear of the coronavirus, hundreds of Iranian Muslims took advantage of the temporary reopening of mosques to gather and pray, mindful of the protocols of social distancing and sanitation.
The authorities have allowed mosques to reopen for three nights, from 13 to 15 May, between midnight and two in the morning, to enable worshippers to celebrate the festival of Laylat al-Qadr, or ‘night of destiny’.
The observance takes place in the last 10 days of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer, but the dates can vary according to Sunni and Shia traditions. As the exact day is not known, devotions take place each night.
For Sunnis, this is the time when the archangel Gabriel revealed the Qurʼān to Muhammad. For Shias, the "night of destiny" is linked to the coming of insight to the prophet.
Traditionally, devout Muslims must make invocations, pray, recite passages from the Qurʼān and atone for their sins.
In spite of the fear of the COVID-19, believers gathered in mosques reopened by the government just for the holy days, bringing their own copy of the Qurʼān and prayer mat.
Iranian authorities remain however on high alert, in a country that has reported more than 112,000 cases and just under 6,8000 deaths so far. Since the start of the crisis, a full lockdown was never imposed, but now the first steps to ease restrictions are underway.
At the Reihanat al-Hossein mosque, west Tehran, scores of families, some with young children, happy and in a good mood, took the opportunity to pray in a place they feel connected to.
Members of the Basij,[*] one of the paramilitary volunteer groups of the Revolutionary Guard Corps (Pasdaran), monitored the flow of worshippers, reminding people to keep at a safe distance. Those praying outside the building were sprayed with disinfectant by volunteers wearing protective suits.
“We are all worried by the disease, even my family," said 60-year-old Mahmoudi, one of the hundreds of worshippers present yesterday evening.
“When I decided to come, my relatives were nervous, but I promised them to respect the sanitation protocol. Now that I'm here, I see that everyone is respecting the rules” of social distancing and wearing masks.
Mosques were closed in mid-March when Iranian authorities imposed restrictions to contain the novel coronavirus pandemic. Now they are ready to welcome the faithful.
"We wear gloves and masks," said Massoumeh, under an elegant head veil. “I think if we all stick to the rules nothing serious will happen to us.”
At Reihanat al-Hossein mosque, the atmosphere is certainly one of anticipation at being able to pray together again.
For Amir Hossein, a Tehrani, “These are special nights for people; I think the government could not have cancelled them.”
[*] Niru-ye Moghāvemat-e Basij (Mobilisation Resistance Force).