COVID-19 Dampens Eid Festivities

Just before Eid al-Fitr, the holiday marking the end of the Islamic observance of Ramadan, customers in Pakistan rushed to finish shopping in bazaars that opened after a nearly two-month lockdown because of the coronavirus.

In many places, crowds simply ignored warnings and guidelines to protect against the pandemic.

“I don’t think it’s such a big deal,” said Rozeena Abbasi, who roamed around in an overcrowded market in Islamabad without wearing a face mask. “I want people to continue with their lives and routines as usual. Whatever is fated to happen will happen.”

Despite her nonchalance, she acknowledged that Eid is going to be different this year.

Eid al-Fitr, the most festive Muslim holiday, is marked with celebrations, friends and family reunions, and a lot of feasting. This year, the coronavirus is threatening to dampen that spirit.

“This Eid is not just a little different, it’s entirely different. We used to go to each other’s houses, everyone used to cook, the whole week used to be one long festival. Not this time,” said Sehrish Lodhi of Islamabad.

Unlike Pakistan, shops and shopping malls in many other countries remain closed. Eid al-Fitr marks the biggest shopping season in most Muslim countries. But this year, many businesses will feel the pain of lost income.

“Last year, there were clients, there was movement. We were able to work. There was a source of income. Now, there is no income, there is no season. We do not feel the season. We do not feel the Eid,” said Karem Mohamed, 19, a shoe salesman in Cairo.

Coronavirus restrictions

Egypt has ordered all shops, restaurants, parks and beaches closed for the extended holiday.  

Indonesia, the most populous Muslim country, and others have banned the special group prayers for Eid.

“There is no takbir [acts of praise to God] in mosques or other areas. No Halal-bi-halal

[gatherings to ask for forgiveness at the end of Ramadan]

. Halal-bi-halal and mass gatherings are good, but the health and well-being of your family and society is a religious order. It’s our obligation,” Robikin Emhas, chief executive of Nahdlatul Ulama, the largest Islamic organization in Indonesia, told VOA Indonesian on Sunday.

In Aceh, the only Indonesian province with Islamic sharia law, public Eid prayers will still be performed inside and outside mosques, with physical distancing protocol in place. But the public takbir and the province’s iconic parade of decorated vehicles will not occur this year.

“We are so sad, because we can’t hold the takbir. It’s part of the tradition, just like meugang,” Muhammad Al Kausar told VOA.

Meugang is the Acehnese tradition that is believed to have emerged with the spread of Islam in Aceh in the 14th century. Cattle are slaughtered, cooked and eaten in a meal that brings families together to feast on various meat dishes at the end of Ramadan.

In Central Java, residents have erected barriers on village borders to stop out-of-towners from entering to control the spread of COVID-19.

In Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, the government and clerics are urging people to pray at home. The kingdom has declared a 24-hour curfew from Saturday until Wednesday to stem the spread of the virus.

Its rival nation, Iran, and some other countries, have taken a more relaxed approach and will allow Eid prayers, but only in open spaces with social distancing.

Among all the restrictions, the Eid celebrations and outings that people have grown accustomed to will not be around this year.

Creative alternatives

“The normal ritual is that after the morning prayer on that day, people go out to visit friends and families. But this time, there will be minimal interaction,” said Hajiya Rukayat Usman, of the city of Jos in Nigeria.

This has led many to think of creative ways to bring some normalcy to this abnormal situation. Technology is expected to play a big role.

“This will be a kind of digital Eid,” said Lodhi in Islamabad. “People will wish each other [a happy Eid] on phone calls or video calls. I think everyone will get ready and make videos but won’t be able to do much else.”

People with children are particularly concerned with creating a festive atmosphere at home, said Samy Mahmud in Cairo.

“The most crucial thing is that we do not make our young children feel this catastrophe. They can put on their new clothes as usual. We can bring them balloons at home, create for them an atmosphere of joy and happiness of the Eid, so they don’t feel like we are in a catastrophe,” he said.

In Teaneck, New Jersey, in the U.S. northeast, the first Muslim American to be elected mayor in Bergen County has come up with a unique plan.

“For us in Teaneck, I’m going to have front yard parties,” said Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin. “So basically, everyone can go out [in)] the front yard, set up your chairs and your table, and if you want to, people can drive by. And that’s the way we’re all going see each other.”

One thing is certain — this year’s Eid al-Fitr will long be remembered as one of hardship and restrictions.

Source: Voice of America