Safe Management Measures will remain in place
1. Since the start of the year, there have been many adjustments to the religious life of Singapore Muslims, from daily and weekly congregational prayer services, religious education classes, major religious activities such as fasting and Hari Raya, and new religious norms arising from the COVID-19 pandemic. These adaptations were guided by religious advice from the Fatwa Committee and the Office of the Mufti, and the Singapore Muslim community has adapted well to the changes required during this pandemic.
2. In March 2020, Muis closed all mosques in order to prevent transmission of COVID-19, and mosques remained closed during the Circuit Breaker period. Post-Circuit Breaker, from the provision of small prayer spaces for essential service workers, mosques have developed and successfully implemented safe management measures, allowing for the gradual and safe reopening of mosques and resumption of congregational prayers.
3. Since June 2020, daily and Friday congregational prayers have progressively resumed in mosques, with safe distancing, shortened duration, enhanced cleaning regimens, separate entrances and exits as well as contact tracing in place. Although there were a few cases of asymptomatic COVID-19 positive individuals visiting mosques, because of the safe management measures in place and the responsible behaviour of congregants, no clusters developed, and no virus transmissions have been detected.
4. This has allowed Muis to progressively increase the number of spaces available, in line with the guidelines for religious activities provided by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY). The Fatwa Committee also issued an advisory to the community that a religious concession was allowed for congregants who, due to space limitations, were unable to perform their obligatory Friday prayers in mosques, and to substitute this with prayer at home or at work1.
Congregational Prayer in Mosques
5. As of October 2020, Muis is able to offer 15,225 spaces every week for Friday prayers at 64 mosques. With the progressive increase in spaces, Muslims have been able to book more frequently for Friday prayers. Muis eventually aims to gradually increase the number of prayer spaces to 30,000 slots every week. This will enable congregants to generally book a slot for Friday prayer every four to five weeks. To achieve this, some mosques will pilot accommodating up to 250 congregants across 5 zones.
6. In line with the revised capacity limits for places of worship, Muis will also increase the slots available for daily congregational prayers from 50 to 100 worshippers at selected mosques, to meet the demand from congregants at these mosques. 19 mosques will begin offering the additional 50 spaces with effect from 7 October 2020. The list of mosques is appended as Annex B.
7. With effect from 16 October, the Friday prayer timings will also be adjusted earlier. This is in view of Zuhur timing moving earlier towards the later part of the year. The new timings are as follows:
a) Session 1: 12:45pm to 1:15pm
b) Session 2:1:45pm to 2:15pm
c) Session 3: 2:45pm to 3:15pm
8. Muis has been offering spaces through an online booking system. The system was designed to be easy to use, and to prioritise those who have not secured a slot in recent weeks. Built in to the system was a blackout period, which disallows an individual with a recent booking to make a booking in a specified window. In recent weeks, this blackout period has been progressively shortened as more spaces have been made available2. To date, about 85,000 congregants have attended Friday prayer since its resumption.
9. When mosques first reopened, Muis advised congregants aged 60 and above to refrain from visiting the mosque. In view of the improving situation, seniors who wish to do so may return to the mosques for their religious activities, but are advised to adhere to the necessary safe management measures. Seniors who are feeling unwell, vulnerable individuals (those exhibiting symptoms of acute respiratory infection as well as pre-existing chronic medical conditions) as well as children below the age of 12 are strongly encouraged to refrain from going to the mosque, and to perform their prayers at home instead.
10. As we scale up congregation sizes, Muis emphasises that there is still a need for all safe distancing procedures, contact tracing, the online booking system to manage repeat bookings, and continues to encourage use of the Trace Together App.
Other Religious Services
11. In addition to congregational prayer, mosques have also been progressively resuming other religious services, in line with guidelines by MCCY (See Annex A). Moving forward, with the easing of guidelines by MCCY, mosques will progressively resume other religious activities:
a. Part-time aLIVE madrasah classes will recommence progressively, with some mosques piloting face-to-face classes from mid-October. Muis targets more on-site aLIVE classes at mosques to resume in 2021.
b. In-person marriage solemnisation at mosques have been allowed to resume since 13 June 2020 while jenazah prayer services have resumed since 14 September 2020.
c. Face-to-face marriage counselling sessions for BersamaMu programmes and social development services have been allowed to resume gradually.
d. Mosques will organise limited hybrid live-online Maulid (Prophet’s Birthday) celebrations.
Ensuring Safe Resumption of Religious Life
12. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Office of the Mufti has been providing the appropriate religious guidance to ensure the community can continue to practise and fulfil religious obligation in a safe manner.
13. Even with the increase in prayer spaces, the original rukhsah3, as advised by the Office of the Mufti in its Fatwa will still be in place. Those who are unable to attain a slot for Friday prayers are given the flexibility to replace Friday prayer with Zuhur prayer and are encouraged to tune to SalamSG TV and other online platforms to listen to Friday sermon.
14. Moving forward, it is likely that new norms and safety measures will be needed for as long as there is no vaccine available for the virus, and the danger of COVID-19 new waves and outbreaks remain. The Fatwa Committee is exploring and examining all options very carefully based on our religious principles and values, to see if other adaptations to our religious life and practices are needed. The spiritual well-being and morale of the community in the face of a prolonged challenge remains our top priority.
15. As the nation moves towards Phase III and more religious activities are resuming, Muis still strongly emphasises the importance of a cautious approach, safe management measures, and the need for the close cooperation of the community.
16. We seek the support and understanding of the Muslim community to continue to be socially responsible and safeguard public health as we perform our religious obligations in our mosques.
1Fatwa issued by Office of the Mufti providing guidance on the religious justifications in view of the congregational worship with limited prayer spaces dated 24 March 2020.
2When the system was first introduced in June 2020, repeat bookings were only allowed to start after 7 weeks.
3Flexibility, permissibility, an exception to a general law, granted to preserve life or remove hardship.