In response to two Singaporeans being diagnosed with COVID-19 after attending a religious gathering in Malaysia, all 70 mosques in Singapore have been closed since 13 March. Although initially slated to be closed for five days, the closures are now extended to 26 March as more Singaporeans who attended the event are diagnosed with COVID-19. This means that 27 March is the earliest mosque-based activities (such as congregational prayers and kindergartens operated by the mosque) can resume (assuming no further extension of the closure).
Adapting To Changes
This measure is unprecedented – it is the first time that all mosques in Singapore will be temporarily closed. The need to cancel congregational prayers and other activities held at the mosque left some disappointed. Despite hearing the news, 71-year-old retiree Mr Arshad Abu Yamin still showed up at Darul Ghufran (a mosque) hoping to pray in the mosque even if he was to do it alone. Many Muslims also lamented not being able to hear the azan (call to prayer) for the first time. In response to this, mosques have resumed an adapted azan since 17 March calling for the community to do their prayers at home.
When announcing the extension of the mosque closures, a spokesperson for the MUIS explained that contact tracing will not be a sufficient measure to prevent transmission of the virus. This is because mosques do not operate on a membership system meaning that they do not have a register of their congregants. Hence, they have to supplement with mosque closures for the time being.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs, Mr Masagos Zulkifli, has convened a COVID-19 workgroup consisting religious teachers, medical professionals and members of government. The purpose of the workgroup is to advise the Muslim community in Singapore on “sound and practical” ways to adapt traditional Islamic practices for this trying time, so that religious activities can resume without high risk of COVID-19 getting out of hand.
Some adaptations have already been proposed. When mosques re-open, the idea of having two shorter sessions instead of one long Friday prayer will be trialed. Contact-tracing will also be instituted to track congregants. Let’s hope that our Muslim friends may resume their religious activities in health and safety soon.