Kenyans livestream Friday prayers because of COVID-19

By Andrew Wasike

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) – At the Kariobangi slums here in Kenya’s capital city, Abdirizak Noor just had a bath.

There is no running water where he lives so he showers using a basin, brushes his teeth and prepares for Friday prayers.

Instead of going to the mosque, Noor lies a prayer mat on the floor of his one-roomed unit. Having prepared like he would on a normal Friday, he performs prayers following the guidance of an imam, or spiritual leader.

“Friday prayers are supposed to be congregational; I am alone but I am not,” Noor said, referring to a livestream video on his laptop with more than 3,500 viewers.

Muslims in Kenya held prayers Friday via online portals set up by mosques. In Nairobi, the largest mosque in East Africa, Jamia Mosque, announced it officially closed its doors due to COVID-19.

Other mosques in Nairobi also closed after a series of consultations with the Kenya Muslim Medical Professionals.

“The spread of the virus has derailed prayers for us Muslins,” Noor said. “Other mosques have ignored government appeals and continued with Friday prayers but my masjid in Kariobangi Nairobi is part of Jamia Mosque. We don’t want to spread the disease.”

Kenya suspended all communal religious activities after seven cases of the virus was recorded.

“Many mosques have followed the governments appeal in order to stop the spread of this disease. We urge those that have not to do so if they love their loved ones,” Issa Rashid, an Imam at Kariobangi Masjid told Anadolu Agency.

“Other mosques have asked their members to bring their own prayer mats, this according to the government is not the solution for us we have decided to livestream everything and by the numbers, you can see we are a congregation,” he said. "Islam in no way permits us to engage in practices that can jeopardize and put people at risk of losing their lives."

Halima Osman, who frequents Jamia Mosque told Anadolu Agency that worshippers were encouraged to use technology.

“So we have been advised to livestream on their websites and social media networks, the Friday prayers…that is today so… we are all advised to go to their websites or their social media and follow the prayers online,” she said.

Churches also informed their congregations they will have services online.

The Central Bank of Kenya released $70 million Friday to support government efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the money will “help our health facilities and our health workers, that again is something we appreciate and this is what I mean when I say Kenyans working together can achieve miracles."

The government also said it released 400,000 liters of ethanol, impounded multi-agency teams on contraband goods, to oil companies for the blending of hand sanitizers to be distributed free of charge to the public.