The Saudi government has decided to resume Aitekaf at the Grand Mosque in Makkah and the Prophet's Mosque in Madinah during Ramazan after two years, according to a report by the Saudi Gazette on Wednesday.
The announcement was made by Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, head of the General Presidency for the Affairs of the Two Holy Mosques, in an annual meeting held to launch the presidency's plan for this year's Ramazan.
He said that the presidency will soon start issuing permits through its official website. "They will be in line with specific conditions and set criteria," Al-Sudais added.
The presidency, earlier, launched an online portal to provide guidelines and registration facilities to worshippers intending to perform Aitekaf.
The religious ritual of staying in mosques for the sole purpose of worship and meditation is observed during Ramazan. The report stated that as many as 100,000 worshipers perform Aitekaf at the two holy mosques during the last 10 days of the holy month.
However, it was suspended for the last two years because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia lifted most Covid restrictions including social distancing in public spaces and quarantine for vaccinated arrivals, moves that could facilitate the arrival of Muslim pilgrims.
Masks will only be required in closed spaces, according to the decision, which came into effect on March 6.
In 2020, when the Holy Mosques reopened for the public, strict restrictions such as social distancing and wearing of masks were imposed. Visas were also not being issued to pilgrims across the world, including Pakistan.
The kingdom, which is home to Islam's two holiest places in Makkah and Madinah, will no longer require vaccinated travellers to provide a negative PCR or rapid test before their arrival in the kingdom or to quarantine.
The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely disrupted Muslim pilgrimages, which are usually key revenue earners for the kingdom, bringing in some $12 billion annually.
Hosting the pilgrimages is a matter of prestige for Saudi rulers, for whom the custodianship of Islam's holiest sites is their most powerful source of political legitimacy.