As Muslims end the 30 days of fasting today, they are expected to troop out tomorrow for congregational prayer, signifying the end of Ramadan and the commencement of another month (Shawwal). Eid al Fitr is the festival of breaking the fast. It is a festival that entails large meals with extended families and visits to the houses of relatives and friends. These traditions and other demands of the celebration will be altered across the world as governments and stakeholders continue initiating and implementing various measures to contain spread of Coronavirus that has infected million of people and killed thousands since late 2019.
Among the Muslims, this period is a tough time. From the beginning of the month, they were forced to change some of the traditions associated with the 30-day fasting. Majority of them in Asia, Africa, Europe, America and other continents avoided night congregational prayers and daily lectures. During the month, they hoped the virus would stop before the end of the fasting for them to observe Eid as being done previously.
To assist governments and stakeholders mitigate the effect of the virus, Muslims in many countries have pronounced the cancellation of communal events, while a number of people are seeking knowledge about how to celebrate this year’s Eid. Available information indicates that the interest in Coronavirus has been the focus of Muslims and others since May, 15, 2020. This is not surprising since the virus is impacting country and people differently. According to a report, Muslims are not expected to have the same experience during the celebration. In this regard, our analyst examines some of the old and new ways.
Exhibit 1: Public Interest in Eid and Coronavirus between April 23 and May 23, 2020
The Old and New Ways
As pointed out earlier, Muslims visit each other during the Eid celebration and attending large gatherings where they eat and socialize together. Coronavirus has altered this as there will be no congregational prayers outside mosques, communal breakfasts and parties. Limited family gatherings are also expected from tomorrow till next two days. In the last three days, governments and stakeholders in charge of management of the virus have been informing Muslims and their leaders on the need to avert congregational prayers and communal gatherings. Where it is practically impossible to have more than 10 people, stakeholders expect strict adherence to social distancing and other health measures such as wearing mask washing hands with hand sanitiser or soap under running water.
Our checks reveal that Imams and other Islamic leaders are devising innovative ways of making this year’s Eid celebration memorable despite the pandemic. Information indicates that these leaders are planning virtual sermon. The sermon will be aired on local television and streamed on social media in countries such as the United States, Canada and Italy. In some countries, the idea of giving congregants instructions on how to do the Eid prayer at home is being suggested.
Insisting on Old Ways
In its interim report before the beginning of the Ramadan month, the World Health Organisation proffers measures that should be taken physical gatherings during the month. As some Muslims prefer going out to the praying grounds to adaptation of some new ways noted earlier, following the global health organisation’s guidelines would go in a long way of reducing the spread of the disease.
Here are the measures:
- Consider holding the event outdoors if possible; otherwise, ensure that the indoor venue has adequate ventilation and air flow.
- Shorten the length of the event as much as possible to limit potential exposure.
- Give preference to holding smaller services with fewer attendees more often, rather than hosting large gatherings.
- Adhere to physical distancing among attendees, both when seated and standing, through creating and assigning fixed places, including when praying, performing wudu (ritual ablutions) in communal washing facilities, as well as in areas dedicated to shoe storage.
- Regulate the number and flow of people entering, attending, and departing from worship spaces, pilgrimage sites, or other venues to ensure safe distancing at all times
- Consider measures to facilitate contact tracing in the event that an ill person is identified among the attendees of the event.