US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Closed mosques, family gatherings prohibited and curfews. The Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan began on Friday in full containment linked to the Covid-19 pandemic, although some religious authorities have rejected the restrictions.
This year, this sacred month, synonymous with a period of sharing, generosity and gatherings, promises to be gloomy for the hundreds of thousands of Muslims in Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.
The restrictions imposed in many countries force the mosques to remain closed and iftar, the daily meal of breaking the fast, a usually friendly or even festive moment, cannot be shared as is customary with family or between neighbors.
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest places in Islam, said he was “distressed” by the lack of collective prayers, but insisted on “protecting life and health Peoples”.
Containment measures are strict in the kingdom, where prayers have been suspended in mosques and a total curfew imposed in most areas. With the exception of those in the Great Mosque in Mecca, where worshipers in limited numbers and surrounded by security forces, prayed on Friday.
Usually crowded with people, the Kaaba esplanade, the cubic structure located in the heart of the Great Mosque and towards which Muslims go during prayer, was deserted.
Confinement particularly affects the most disadvantaged, deprived of the charity of mosques or associations. “The mosques are closed and those who help us normally are also going through difficulties,” said Salah Jibril, a unemployed Palestinian worker in Gaza.
In Tripoli, in the north of Lebanon, despite the general gloom, the markets attracted the inhabitants, many of whom fear price increases amid the economic crisis in the country.
Owner of a candy store, Samer al-Hallab nonetheless expects sales “to fall by more than 75% during this Ramadan compared to previous years”.
– “Very different” –
One of the five pillars of Islam, Ramadan begins on Friday in the majority of Muslim countries, and on Saturday in Iran, Morocco as well as for the Shiites of Iraq and Lebanon.
In Iraq, even if there is a reduction in confinement during the day, Iraqis will not be able to share Iftar with their relatives at night. Friday, the mausoleum of Abdelqader al-Gelani, one of the largest Sunni holy places in Iraq, was closed, like most mosques.
Night curfews are imposed in several countries in the Middle East.
Algeria, Tunisia and Libya have announced the reduction of curfews during Ramadan.
The largest Muslim country in the world, Indonesia has invited the faithful to stay at home, while millions of Indonesians travel to their cities and towns at the end of this month each year.
“This Ramadan is very different, it is simply not festive. I am disappointed not to be able to go to the mosque but what can we do there?”, Laments Fitria Famela, an Indonesian.
In Indonesia, as in other countries in Asia, the continent where more than a billion Muslims reside, some religious leaders have refused to comply with the restrictions.
This is the case of the main Muslim organization in the Indonesian province Aceh. Thousands of worshipers attended the prayer in the capital’s largest mosque, Banda Aceh, on Thursday evening.
“I am not worried because I wear a mask and I keep my distance,” said Cut Fitrah Riskiah, present at the ceremony.
In Bangladesh, religious figures have swept aside recommendations to reduce attendance at mosques. And in Pakistan, mosques were crowded as Ramadan approached.
– “Test sent by Allah” –
Mohamad Shukri Mohamad, the highest cleric in the conservative Malaysian state of Kelantan, chose to forget collective prayers and family meals, even if it means not seeing his six children and 18 grandchildren.
“It is the first time in my life that I have not been able to go to the mosque. But we accept it and we comply with social distancing measures to protect our lives.”
In Russia, the faithful will have to pray without going to the mosque. The tents usually installed in the evening with water and food will not be present this year. The head of the Mufti Council of Russia, Ravil Gainutdin, called for accepting these conditions as a “test sent by Allah”.
In Central Asia, the religious authorities of the three countries recognizing cases of coronavirus on their territory – Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan – have prohibited celebrations and family meetings.
In Tajikistan, officially spared from the coronavirus, the secular authorities have called on the faithful not to observe the fast so as not to make themselves vulnerable to “infectious diseases”. In the capital Dushanbe, residents shake hands and embrace for Ramadan, but more people wear a mask than usual.
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