Shops should close for prayers in Saudi Arabia?

The long on-going discussion on whether shops in Saudi Arabia should be closing for prayers or not went active on Twitter again, with a hashtag that can be translated as “shops-to-open-during-prayer-times”. At present, all shops must close for prayer times to give salespeople the opportunity to pray. In restaurants, no service is allowed during prayer times.

Customers have often complained that non-Muslim sales staff use the prayer time just as a break, and might as well work. Furthermore, times closed for prayer are not just limited to the time for prayer and getting ready for it, but extend well beyond that. This means that shoppers spend long periods outside shops and restaurants, and have to time their visits carefully to avoid this.

On the other hand, some people say that if prayer breaks are discontinued, people will forget to pray and that those breaks serve as reminders.

There are 5 prayers a day for a Muslim. They are at sunrise, noon, afternoon, sunset and night, and the last four are usually during shopping periods. Nowadays, most shops remain open throughout the day, while until about ten years ago a long afternoon break from 1 PM to 5 PM was the norm.