NOT THIS YEAR: For Muslims the world over, including in TT, scenes like this captured in 2019 in Pakistan, are common place during Ramadan at the breaking of fast. This year, because of the covid19 pandemic, most Muslims will be breaking fast and praying at home rather than at the mosque or out in public. AP PHOTO – AP
Every year during Ramadan, Muslims prepare long tables at mosques and dish out free meals at sunset for the poor to break their fast. This year, they are called upon to stay at home even while they carry out their religious activities.
In an interview on Wednesday, president of the San Fernando Jama (community) Mosque, Waheed Majid, encouraged the Muslim community to adhere to the stay-at-home policy to fight against the covid19 pandemic.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast, abstain from pleasures, and pray to become closer to God. It is also a time for families to gather and celebrate. Majid said while Ramadan maintains its focus on self-sacrifice and devotion to Allah, it is also important to practise social distancing during this critical time.
He said Muslims will comply with whatever restriction put in place by the state and the Muslim community will also have discussions with the government discreetly, to highlight their point of view. “We are not going to dictate to them, they have the nation at heart and we have to listen to what they say.
“Now that there is the covid19 restriction, everything has been curtailed. So there is no longer the chance for us to go to the mosque in the morning, at lunchtime or at night, everything has to take place at home.” Majid said during Ramadan, Muslims normally visit the mosques to engage in the early morning and afternoon prayers.
He said some even come out for the “nourishing” (food). “All the nightly prayers at the mosque now have to take place at home. We now have to reach out to them from the mosque by providing them with food items. “We have also put things in place to have online programmes to reach the community. We have programmes live on Facebook and other social media platforms to keep the community occupied in terms of their religious responsibilities throughout the day.”
Majid said the traditional reciting of the Qur’an will take place by the Imam and all programmes will be aired at regular praying times. “These practices are going to happen from the mosques where the Imam will be with a camera crew to ensure everyone can view the programme online.
“Our prayer normally starts at 5 am, lunchtime, around 5 pm and 6 pm until 9 pm at the mosque to break the fast.” Majid said he does not expect anything to change during the month that could cause things to change for the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr. He said adhering to the call of the stay-at-home policy is something everyone needs to do to flatten the curve and ensure fewer people are not directly affected by this virus.
“We hope and pray that at the end of it all, everyone can enjoy Eid with their families although they cannot go to the mosque or visit other family members,” Majid said.
Leader of the Jamaat Al-Muslimeen, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, called on citizens to be their brother’s keeper. “The situation right now is fluid. We will be predicting something that we don’t know what will happen. At the moment, Ramadan might start Friday or Saturday, while we are trying to make preparations, all we can do is follow the guidelines of the government and try to keep the numbers they want.
“In the past, we used to break the fast at the mosque where three to 400 people would gather. That is out. As far as we are concerned, everybody has to stay at home and break their fast.” Bakr said while government is doing as much as they could, the adherence is another thing.
He said people are still walking around in public carelessly without face masks. “If people don’t care about themselves at least care about the other person. The situation can get worse or it can get better in time for Eid-ul-Fitr.
“It is a serious situation we are in. Most people are not aware of how serious it is. The community will follow as stringently as they can with the guidelines put in place because it is for everyone’s interest,” he said.