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The Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) lifted the social distancing rule applied at mosques since last year following an improvement of the situation related to COVID-19 pandemic.

Diyanet President Ali Erbaş said in a circular sent to muftiates across the country on Friday that prayers can be performed in “saf” order (arrays or straight lines of the faithful who should be as close to each other as possible during prayers). Erbaş, however, urged the faithful to continue compliance with hygiene and mandatory protective mask rules while performing prayers.

The country had closed mosques for congregational prayers in the early days of the pandemic, but they were reopened in May 2020, on the condition that social distancing is observed. Friday prayers, required to be performed in a congregation for all able-bodied Muslims, proved a challenge, however. Prayers, already crowded and mostly performed outside the mosques due to a large number of people present, further grew in size, with people eager to maintain social distancing having to perform prayers with the prayer mats, sometimes, on the streets.

Erbaş hailed the lack of any serious problems stemming from the pandemic at the mosques thanks to the vigilance of mosque staff and the faithful. He cited the reasons to remove the social distancing rule for farz (obligatory) prayers inside the mosques as the approaching winter, which will make it difficult to perform prayers outside, and the increased vaccination rate across the country.

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