The administration of the Medina Mosque in Saudi Arabia will for the first time apply a new system in which worshippers need to register online before ‘aitakaaf’ (Islamic retreat) during the last 10 days of the holy month of Ramadan.
According to the administration, the new system aims at keeping a record of the identities of worshippers present at the mosque during ‘aitakaaf’ for security reasons. It also hopes to regulate the process of ‘aitakaaf’ using a set of rules people need to abide by in order to spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in the mosque.
One of these rules concerns the items people bring, which should be confined to a pillow and a blanket. Other rules include keeping the mosque clean, not disturbing other worshippers, and only sitting in the area allotted for retreat in the northern part of the mosque.
Worshippers are prohibited from hanging their clothes on shelves on which copies of the Quran are placed or on the walls and windows of the mosque and from leaving personal belongings on air conditioning units or in shoe racks. They are also not allowed to sit or sleep in places where other worshippers are performing their prayers.
According to the new system, worshippers are to end their ‘aitakaaf’ right after the evening prayers on the eve of Eid al-Fitr (the Lesser Eid).
The system, added the administration, is not only better for the mosque but also for worshippers who will no longer need to stand in a line before entering the mosque since they will have already registered before going.
It will also ensure that worshippers would read all the instructions online before coming and therefore minimizes chances of violating them and the subsequent delay this might cause at the entrance.
The number of worshippers in ‘aitakaaf’ during the last 10 days of Ramadan has always been controversial and some even called upon the relevant authorities to cancel it altogether in the Mecca and Medina mosques in order to allow more space for pilgrims and regular worshippers.
Complaints have been filed about the behavior of some in ‘aitakaaf’ who reportedly sleep all over the mosque and make phone calls while others are praying. This led to suggestions that retreat be confined to the furthest ends of the mosque.
In order to offer a partial solution to the problem, the Ministry of Interior issued a decree obliging residents/workers in the kingdom to obtain permission from their sponsors before going on ‘aitakaaf’.