Muslims all over the world have been observing the holy month of Ramadan which will come to end with the celebrations of Eid-al-Fitr today. Eid is considered to be one of the most important moments in the Islamic calendar and is traditionally celebrated by offering prayers at the mosque, a grand family feast and shopping for new clothes and exchange of gifts and sweets.
But this year, celebrations and the mood of festivity has been dampened by the coronavirus pandemic, with many countries under strict lockdown and people panicking about the steady spike in the number of infections.
What has further been dampening the spirit of Ramadan is that most countries across the world have put a ban on mass gatherings including prayers at mosques. Offering of prayers at the mosque is central to the celebrations of Eid but this year stringent restrictions on gatherings and public movement accompanied with entrenched fear psychosis have certainly dampened the very spirit of festivity associated with Eid.
While Muslims around the world began with their festivities on Sunday to mark Eid-al-Fitr which in usual times is a festive holiday marking the holy month of Ramadan, this year the celebrations were remarkably altered with millions of people fearing the coronavirus infection and nation-states imposing unprecedentedly strict curbs on public gathering. A festival which under normal circumstances is about families coming together for the holy fast and collective meals at dawn and dusk, was largely observed by people within the confines of their homes amid the lockdown.
Nations such as Turkey, Iraq and Jordan went ahead and imposed round-the-lock holiday curfews. But even in places where restrictions have been relaxed, there is fear of infection and economic fallout. Even in Saudi Arabia, which boasts of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina there is a complete lockdown and citizens are only allowed to venture outdoors if they need to purchase food or medicines.
Another important holy site for the Muslim, which has also been the flashpoint in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Al-Aqsa.
In normal times this compound would welcome tens of thousands of worshippers during the times of Eid but this year, even its doors are closed.
Iran is battling the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East and has cancelled the annual mass Eid parties in Tehran led by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Indonesia, which is the world’s largest Muslim majority country gas also banned congregational prayers at mosques.
Pakistan is also witnessing dampened celebrations in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak and a recent plane crash near Karachi that killed more than 97 passengers.
But Pakistan PM Imran Khan refused to close mosques despite the fact that the medical community in the country raised an alarm as Pakistan reported more than 52,000 cases and recorded more than 1,100 deaths. Karachi saw a gathering of thousands of worshippers(many of whom wore masks)who came whether in an open field to offer prayers on Sunday.
In India, Jammu and Kashmir and Kerala celebrated Eid on Sunday and the rest of the country is going to celebrate it today. No Eid prayers were offered at the mosques and people offered their prayers from their homes. All the major mosques and shrines have banners in place that say that there will be no congregational prayers.
Thus celebrations across India are expected to be earnest with community leaders urging Muslims not to spend money on Eid shopping and instead help someone in need of food or other basic supplies.
Many migrant Muslim families are also being forced to spend the festival in isolation and away from home.