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COVID-19 stifles Eid al-Fitr celebrations

As the Muslim world prepares to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Islam’s holiest month, many of the faithful find themselves facing stringent lockdown measures to stop the coronavirus from spreading further.

Eid al-Fitr is a joyous moment for the Muslim community, with traditions emphasizing large gatherings, gift-giving and sharing meals with friends and family.

Traditionally, Eid prayers are performed at a mosque with fellow believers. However, lockdown restrictions, which have forced worship centres to close, mean many will celebrate the festival within the confine of their homes.

In Nigeria, Sultan Sa’ad Abubakar, who is the President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), has given a directive that Muslims should observe the prayers at home as part of their observance of the COVID-19 protocols and to prevent the spread of the virus.

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However, some state governments, like Kano, Bauchi, Yobe, Jigawa, Gombe, Borno and Zamfara have opened mosques, allowing Muslims to observe congregational prayers.

In Saudi Arabia, authorities announced a 24-hour curfew would go into effect on May 23, when Eid al-Fitr is expected to begin. It is set to remain in place until May 27, the last day of celebrations.

In order to relieve some pressure on the community of believers, Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh issued an edict instructing the faithful to conduct Eid prayers at home.

“It is permissible to perform Eid al-Fitr prayer at home under exceptional circumstances similar to the current pandemic situation,” the grand mufti told the Saudi Gazette newspaper.

In Egypt, Al-Azhar University offered similar advice. Its Council of Senior Scholars decreed that Eid prayers should be conducted at home as the goal of Islamic law is to “preserve lives and protect them from all dangers,” according to comments circulated by the state-run al-Ahram newspaper.

Egyptian authorities also bolstered a nationwide curfew for Eid al-Fitr, expanding stay-at-home hours from 05:00 p.m. to 06:00 a.m. local time. During Ramadan, the curfew had started at 09:00 pm.

In Turkey, President Recep Tayyep Erdogan said a nationwide lockdown would be in place for the entirety of Eid al-Fitr. The president said he was hopeful that afterward, “we will not be needing such restrictions.”

Although religious services have resumed in Germany, the country’s Coordination Council of Muslims (KRM) has instructed mosques to observe social distancing measures and state regulations governing gatherings.

Its partner institution, the Central Council of Muslims in Germany (ZMD), has recommended mosques to suspend all congregational assembly save for designated prayers on Friday and throughout the religious holiday.

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