Muslim faithful in Kenya are marking the holy month of Ramadan under tight government restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19, which has infected more than 360 people across the country.
Among the restrictions is one-metre social distancing and a dusk-to-dawn curfew, which has been extended for another 21 days.
Muslim leaders had requested that the government reopen mosques and push back the curfew start time to allow them to conduct prayers during the holy month. The proposals were rejected.
Kenya's Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar has encouraged the faithful to follow government directives and stay home at night.
“The government has already announce a ban of social gatherings and night movement. I plead to Kenyans and Muslims at large to adhere to government directives. I understand there are night prayers – they should pray in their households," Muhdhar said.
Iftar will not be the same
Mombasa resident Sheban Mubaruk says this year's Ramadan is very different from what they are used to. He is worried Muslims might end up violating restrictions after breaking fast at sunset (iftar) and during the prayer of taraweeh, normally observed at 9 pm.
“We are used to going to sleep late after breaking fast. But this is very different because of the coronavirus," Mubarak tells RFI. "We want the government to push back the curfew time to accommodate us.
"In Islam, taraweeh is an important prayer, and you cannot pray alone at home. God will not hear your prayers if you do not observe taraweeh.”
But Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar says this is an urgent issue that every Muslim will have to accept.
“So many institutions in the entire country are paralysed at the moment. If someone says he must observe taraweeh prayers in the mosques then there will be the likelihood of spreading the disease further – unlike staying at home.”
Mombasa County governor Ali Hassan Joho also appealed to the Muslim faithful, saying all should follow health ministry guidelines and pray at home.
He added there are plans to send relief food to vulnerable families to assist them during this time that will as well help in breaking fast and stay at home.
As of 27 April, Kenya had recorded 363 coronavirus cases, 106 patients recovered and 14 deaths.