With more than two million cases of SARS-COV-2 worldwide, almost all aspects of life as we know it are impacted; this extends even to religion.
The Middle East, one of the most spiritual regions in all of the world, has seen its holiest sites closed to the public in light of the ongoing pandemic; mosques, churches, and synagogues then followed suit.
In Egypt, Al-Azhar discouraged Muslims from gathering en masse for Ramadan’s tarawih prayers. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia group prayers were put on hold during the holy month, while over in Israel, authorities announced banning all gatherings in places of worship, including Al-Aqsa Mosque. Ramadan of 2020, in one of the rarest events in history, marks the closure of Islam’s three holiest sites, Al-Kaaba in Mecca, Al-Masjid Al-Nabwi in Medinah, and the Noble Sanctuary in Jerusalem.
For the Arab World’s Christians, Holy Week has seen little celebration because of fears of the pandemic. The Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt suspended all of its activities as of mid-March, and during Palestine’s Easter break, the Holy Sepulchre, one of the capital’s oldest, holiest churches, was closed to the public.
As the number of cases remained on the rise. the Jewish population of the region experienced similar restrictions with synagogues all over Israel and other countries in the region closing doors.
Perhaps, for the first time in recent history, the whole world is united in its struggle against the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries are putting petty squabbles aside to focus on this existential threat, and in these times of crisis, religion and spirituality are imperative to many of the eath’s inhabitants. However, even though pilgrimages to holy sites are suspended and most places of worship are closed, the people are still celebrating their spirituality from home. The festivities of Ramadan and Easter are not banned; we are just going about them differently.