Cairo mosque resumes Friday prayers with pandemic plea

Muslim worshippers rest inside Al-Azhar mosque after Friday noon prayer in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Jan. 9, 2015. (AP)
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Updated 06 June 2020

Cairo mosque resumes Friday prayers with pandemic plea

  • Egypt’s mosques will follow protective guidelines when they reopen, with worshippers wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance and each having their own prayer mat

CAIRO: Friday prayers returned to Cairo’s Al-Azhar Mosque, 66 days after being suspended as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Ahmed Hashem, a member of the Senior Scholars Committee in Al-Azhar, was the khatib, or preacher, for the first Friday prayers since the shutdown.

Only 20 worshippers from among the mosque’s imams and employees took part in the prayers. Regular worshippers were absent in line with virus restrictions.

“To all those working in the medical force, from doctors to nurses, work sincerely and know that in your work of treating the sick, you are conducting the best form of worship,” Hashem said during his sermon, addressing health-care workers.

“What we experienced with this pandemic, and being unable to find a cure despite the genius of modern science, is an indication that this universe has God,” he added.

The Friday prayer was broadcast on Egyptian TV and on Al-Azhar’s social media platforms.

Hashem told journalists earlier that praying in Al-Azhar Mosque was a good omen, saying he prayed to God to “lift the pandemic off humanity as a whole.”

A member of the Council of Senior Religious Scholars said that it was common knowledge among scholars that in Al-Azhar Mosque, prayers are answered.

Shoukry El-Gendy, undersecretary of the Religious Affairs Committee in Parliament, said the return of prayers in mosques will depend on worshippers following social distancing, especially in large venues.

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Only 20 worshippers from among the mosque’s imams and employees took part in the prayers. Regular worshippers were absent in line with virus restrictions.

Egypt’s mosques will follow protective guidelines when they reopen, with worshippers wearing face masks, keeping a safe distance and each having their own prayer mat.

The Friday prayers were the first to be held in Al-Azhar Mosque since the Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, sheikh of Al-Azhar, temporarily stopped public prayers on March 21 to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Ministry of Endowments confirmed that the next Friday prayer, on June 12, will be held in the Imam Hussein Mosque, and will include around 20 mosque employees and endowment workers.

The ministry would not provide any information on when daily prayers will be held in mosques across Egypt.

The Council of Ministers said that a coronavirus crisis management committee meeting next week will make a decision on the reopening of mosques. The committee is responsible for ensuring that government instructions on the virus are being implemented.

This was not the first time Al-Azhar Mosque stopped worshippers congregating. During the era of the Ayyubid state (1174-1250 AD), Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi overthrew the Fatimids at a time when the mosque was neglected.

During the rule of Egypt’s Ayyubid dynasty, Sadr Al-Din bin Derbas, a judge appointed by Salah Al-Din Al-Ayyubi, was prohibited from praying in it. Al-Hakim Mosque became the only mosque in which congregational prayers, including the Friday prayer and khutbah, took place.

 


Lebanon’s Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

Updated 3 min 40 sec ago

Lebanon’s Tripoli port readies to fill in for blast-hit Beirut

  • The vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit through Beirut port
  • Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs

TRIPOLI: Lebanon’s northern port city of Tripoli is readying its harbor to temporarily replace that of Beirut, which was levelled in last week’s massive explosion, officials said Thursday.
Tripoli port’s capacity is smaller than the capital’s, through which the vast majority of Lebanon’s food and other imports used to transit.
A fire at Beirut port on August 4 caught a huge stockpile of ammonium nitrate, causing an explosion that devastated swathes of the city and killed at least 171 people.
Immediately after the disaster, Lebanon’s Supreme Defense Council ordered that the port of Tripoli be prepped for “import and export operations.”
“The port of Tripoli can stand in for Beirut on a temporary basis, for the time it will take it to be operational again,” Tripoli port director Ahmad Tamer told AFP.
The smaller ports of Saida and Tyre can also contribute to the effort but their capacity is limited and does not allow for bigger vessels to dock.
Lebanon relies on imports for 85 percent of its food needs and the UN’s World Food Programme has warned that the destruction of the main port could worsen an already alarming situation.
Lebanon’s economic collapse in recent months has seen it default on its debt, sent the local currency into free-fall and poverty rates soaring to near third world levels, all amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tamer said seven ships that were on their way to Beirut on the day of the gigantic explosion immediately rerouted to Tripoli, where they unloaded their cargo.
Tripoli had already undergone major upgrade works in order to accomodate increased traffic expected in connection with the reconstruction effort needed in neighboring, war-ravaged Syria.
Tamer said that before the explosion Tripoli port was only functioning at 40 percent capacity, processing two million tons of imports per year, with a capacity to absorb a maximum of five million tons.
The port director said that he wanted to launch a plan to increase work at the port and hire more employees in order to process more than its current rate of 80,000 containers a year.