Muslims in Kenya will start observing the holy month of Ramadhan on Saturday, Chief Kadhi Ahmed Muhdhar has announced.
Sheikh Muhdhar said the crescent moon, which signifies the beginning of the sacred month, was not sighted both in Kenya and Tanzania.
"We have made calls in all the parts of country and we have not received any news of the moon being sighted. We have also inquired the same from our neighbours in Tanzania and Zanzibar and there are no reports of the moon, therefore we will start observing Ramadhan on Saturday," said Sheikh Muhdhar.
The Chief Kadhi said Muslims in the country will therefore complete 30 days of Shabaan (the eighth month of Islamic calendar) on Friday and start Ramadhan on Saturday.
Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar during which strict fasting is observed from dawn to sunset.
It is also one of the pillars of Islam and is considered the holiest ritual by Muslim faithful in the world.
The holy season lasts 29 or 30 days, depending on the lunar cycle. It is in this month when Muslims increase prayers which may not be possible this year due to the coronavirus outbreak which has so far claimed 14 lives.
During Ramadhan, Muslims observe evening prayers known as Taraweeh. The special prayers are conducted after Isha (the daily evening last prayer) which is conducted around 8pm.
This time Muslims have been urged not to converge in mosques to avert spreading the disease and instead pray from home.
"I urge the faithful to follow the government directive and pray at home. They also observe the curfew which has been imposed by our government. We have to respect the President and the orders," he said.
With the curfew in place, the faithful are also not allowed to be out after 7pm for any activities.
On Wednesday, President Uhuru Kenyatta ruled out calls to extend the dusk-to-dawn curfew to allow Muslims observe the holy month of Ramadhan.
Some Muslim clerics led by Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) had called on President Kenyatta to allow the curfew to start at 9pm rather than 7pm.
"We told Christians during Easter that you cannot mark this day. We respect all religions but we have said that let us all celebrate and mark these religious days in our homes, on radio and on television.
I ask our Muslim brothers and sisters to mark the holy month of Ramadhan like they have not done before because these are extraordinary times," said President Kenyatta.
He also said the government is yet to make a decision on whether or not to extend the 30-day curfew.
Meanwhile, food vendors in in Mombasa's central business district will this Ramadhan suffer a setback following the virus outbreak.
The vendors who usually converge at the famous Marikiti area will have to observe the social distance rule if they are to be allowed to operate.