WATCH: Saudi cleric cries during Ramadan's first 'socially-distanced' Taraweeh prayers in Mecca under coronavirus lockdown

WATCH: Saudi cleric cries during Ramadan's first 'socially-distanced' Taraweeh prayers in Mecca under coronavirus lockdown
Saudi Sheikh Saud al Shuraim held back tears as he recited the opening chapter of the Qur'an on the first night of Mecca's taraweeh prayers.
2 min read
24 April, 2020
Mecca's Great Mosque was deserted on the first day of Ramadan [AFP/Getty]
A Saudi sheikh held back tears on Thursday as he began this year's Ramadan nightly Taraweeh prayers in the Great Mosque of Mecca, which was emptied of worshippers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Sheikh Saud al Shuraim recited an emotional start to this year's Taraweeh prayers, videos shared on social media show.

He can be heard making an emotional recitation of the opening chapter of the Quran, while appearing to be holding back tears.

On each night of the nightly ritual Taraweeh prayers, Muslims read one of thirty parts of the Quran, allowing the whole scripture to be read over the 30-day fasting month. 

Mecca's great mosque, the holiest site in Islam, is normally filled to the brim with worshippers - especially during Ramadan.

But this year, images of the Kaabah taken on the first night of Ramadan showed only a handful of worshippers.

Saudi Arabia extended the suspension of prayers in the Two Holy Mosques for the month of Ramadan to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus

The nightly taraweeh prayers, held at the Grand Mosque and Prophet’s Mosque, are therefore not be open to the public.

The coronavirus pandemic is cutting off the world's 1.8 billion Muslims from cherished Ramadan traditions such as the nightly taraweeh prayer - which sees mosques fill with worshippers.

Ramadan, a month of daytime fasting, overnight festivity and communal prayer and giving, began with the new moon on Thursdsay in many countries.

Last month, Saudi Arabia suspended the year-round Umrah pilgrimage over fears of the novel coronavirus spreading to Islam's holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, which were placed under 24-hour curfews.

Riyadh has also urged Muslims to temporarily defer preparations for the annual Hajj pilgrimage amid uncertainty over the pandemic.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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