The two holy mosques in Makkah and Madinah will once again enable regular community Ramadan rites like as itikaf (secluded devotion) and iftar suppers, after two years of COVID-19 restrictions – a welcome return to normalcy for citizens and residents.

Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, announced the decision on Twitter @ReasahAlharmain on March 22: “We are delighted to announce Itikaf’s return to Haramain” (two sanctuaries). It will be applied based on precise criteria, and permissions will be available soon on the presidency’s official website.”

Itikaf occurs during the last ten days of Ramadan, when believers withdraw from society and spend their time to prayer and reading the Qur’an. It begins at sunset on Ramadan’s 20th day and finishes when the Eid moon is spotted. Worshipers in itikaf live and sleep in mosques, only leaving for ablutions.
• Providing iftar meals at the same location in the mosque precincts has been passed down through the centuries for some Saudi households.

• While community iftar sufras were allowed last Ramadan, Sheikh Abdulrahman Al-Sudais declared the resumption of communal iftar sufras at the two mosques on Jan. 13.
• Those who were granted permits stated that they begin planning for iftar two weeks before Ramadan, which is part of the fun.

Layla Nagadi, a 59-year-old Jeddah resident, has practiced itikaf for more than 15 years. “Nothing compares to itikaf in Makkah, where you may devote the final ten days of Ramadan only to worship.”

“When Al-Sudais announced the return of itikaf this year, I was overjoyed; I will be one of the first to apply.”
Before COVID-19, philanthropists who give iftar sufras or meals at specific locations welcomed worshipers to the two holy mosques for iftar. Last Ramadan, communal iftar sufras were allowed, but this year, on Jan. 13, Al-Sudais declared the reintroduction of communal iftar sufras at the two mosques.
Those engaged in this type of charity have been awarded 2,000 licences. Providing iftar meals at the same location in the mosque precincts has been passed down through the generations for some Saudi households.

Shatha Jaylan, 30, of Madinah, told Arab News that she and her family have been serving iftar near the Al-Rawda door for years. “We’ve been serving iftar meals in the women’ portion of the Madinah haram for nine years. My father and aunty collaborated on it because they both value the spirituality of (the) haram during the holy month of Ramadan.”

Those who were granted permits stated that they begin planning for iftar two weeks before Ramadan, which is part of the fun. “We have yoghurt, shouraik bread, duggah (Madini condiment mix), several varieties of dates like rutab and sukkary, Zamzam water bottles, Saudi coffee, and tea,” says the vendor.

“Every Ramadan season, I (personally) used to serve iftar for visitors for three years in a row; we used to prepare everything in the morning so we could deliver (it) to the haram by Asr prayer to avoid the peak hour,” Jaylan explained. “It’s critical to keep everything in order so that tourists can enjoy their meals.”
Jaylan added that, like other meal providers, she hires staff to assist with the cooking and serving of the meals, who are mostly unemployed persons looking for jobs. This year, however, Jaylan stated that her family will not be hosting any dinners in order to allow others to do so.

“We were ecstatic when we heard about the return of iftar meals,” she added. “However, we did not renew our membership this year since there were new rules and restrictions that were a little different.” “Providing iftar, gaining hasanat, and traveling to the haram every day may sound pleasant and enjoyable, but it is a significant obligation.”
“For a month, my aunt, cousins, and I used to stay in the haram from afternoon to nighttime every day.” It’s not easy because we (had) to gather the plastic mats, leftovers, and disposable utensils once the visitors had left. “It’s a great work, but one sincere dua from guests takes away all the fatigue,” she remarked.

Meanwhile, the general presidency is planning to establish a number of activities to help worshipers throughout Ramadan. In Makkah’s big mosque, around 12,000 people will be employed, with the third expansion being utilised to its maximum potential.

There have been crowd control measures put in place, with prayer sections set aside for persons with disabilities and the elderly.

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