Iran’s supreme leader suggested Thursday that mass gatherings in the Islamic Republic may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month Ramadan amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reports.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment in a televised address as Iran prepares to restart its economic activity while suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks. He is also the highest-ranking official in the Muslim world to acknowledge the holy month of prayer and reflection will be disrupted by the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes.
“We are going to be deprived of public gatherings of the month of Ramadan,” Khamenei said during a speech marking the birth of Imam Mahdi. “Those gatherings are meetings for praying to God or listening to speeches which are really valuable. In the absence of these meetings, remember to heed your prayers and devotions in your lonesomeness.”
Ramadan is set to begin in late April and last through most of May. Iranian public officials had not yet discussed plans for the holy month, which sees the Muslim faithful fast from dawn until sunset. However, Iranian mosques have been closed and Friday prayers canceled across the country for fear of the virus spreading among those attending.
Khamenei urged Shiite faithful to pray in their homes during Ramadan. Shiites typically pray communally, especially during Ramadan, which sees communities share meals and greetings each night.
Iran has reported over 67,000 confirmed cases of the new virus, with nearly 4,000 deaths.