Prayer at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem’s Old City will be banned during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan in order to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, Muslim clerics said on Thursday.
This is the first recorded closure of the mosque since its construction in 692 CE.
The Jordan-appointed Waqf council that oversees Jerusalem’s Islamic sites called the decision “painful,” though said it was “in line with legal fatwas [Islamic religious rulings] and medical advice,” according to Reuters. The decision extends an already existing suspension of prayer at the site that has been in effect since March 23.
Muslims should “perform prayers in their homes during the month of Ramadan, to preserve their safety,” said the council.
Many thousands of Muslims typically visit the mosque each day during the month of Ramadan.
The Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City hosted the traditional Passover priestly blessing service during Passover earlier this month, but unlike in previous years when the plaza was packed with worshippers, the service was kept to an absolute minimum this year due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
Breaking Israel News contributed to this report.