Riyadh | Mosques closed, family gatherings banned and a curfew. The month of fasting holy muslim month of ramadan began on Friday in the full containment related to the pandemic of novel coronavirus, even if some religious authorities have rejected the restrictions.
This year, this month sacred, synonymous with a period of sharing, of generosity, and gatherings, looks bleak for the hundreds of thousands of muslims from Asia, the Middle East and northeast Africa.
The restrictions imposed in most countries oblige mosques to remain closed doors and the iftar, the daily meal of breaking the fast, a time usually friendly, even festive, cannot be shared as is the custom in the family or between neighbours.
King Salman of saudi Arabia, home to the two holiest places of islam, said he was “grieved” by the absence of collective prayers, but insisted on the “protection of the life and health of peoples”.
The containment measures are stringent in the kingdom, where the prayers were hung up in the mosques, and a curfew total imposed in most areas. With the exception of those in the Great mosque in Mecca, where the faithful are restricted in number and are surrounded by security forces, were present on Friday to the prayer.
Usually black world, the plaza of the Kaaba, the cubic structure located in the heart of the Grand mosque and to which they can lead the muslims in prayer, was deserted.
The containment of widespread affects especially the most disadvantaged, deprived of the charity of the mosques or associations. “The mosques are closed and those that help us normally run through difficulties,” laments Salah Jibril, an unemployed palestinian from Gaza.
One of the five pillars of islam, ramadan begins on Friday in most muslim countries, and Saturday, in Iran, in Morocco as well as for the shiites in Iraq and Lebanon.
In Iraq, even if there is a relief of the containment by day, the Iraqis will not be able to share the iftar with their family in the evenings. Friday, the mausoleum of Abdelqader al-Gelani, one of the largest holy places in sunni Iraq, was closed, along with most of the mosques.
Night curfews were imposed in several countries in the Middle East.
Largest muslim country in the world, Indonesia will not experience the usual enthusiasm during the month of ramadan, the faithful have been invited to stay with them, while millions of Indonesians travel each year in their cities and villages by the end of this month.
“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?” regrets Fitria Famela, an Indonesian.
In Indonesia as in other countries of Asia, the continent where over a billion muslims, some religious leaders have, however, refused to comply with the restrictions.
This is the case of the main muslim organization of the indonesian province of Aceh. Thursday evening, thousands of faithful attended the prayer in the biggest mosque of the capital, Banda Aceh.
“I’m not worried because I wear a mask and I keep my distance,” says Cut Fitrah Riskiah, present at the ceremony.
In Bangladesh, religious leaders have swept out the recommendations calling for reducing the attendance in the mosques. And in Pakistan, the mosques were crowded with the approach of ramadan.
“Test sent by Allah”
Mohamad Shukri Mohamad, the highest religious dignitary of the State of malaysia’s conservative Kelantan, has chosen to forget the collective prayers and family meals, even if it means not seeing her six children and 18 grandchildren.
“This is the first time in my life that I have not been able to go to the mosque. But we accept it and we will comply with the measures of social distancing to protect our lives.”
In Russia, the faithful will have to pray without going to the mosque. The tents usually set up in the evening with water and food will not be present this year. The head of the Council of muftis of Russia, Ravil Gaïnoutdine, called to accept these conditions for the month of ramadan 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 banned the celebrations and gatherings in the family.
In Tajikistan, officially spared by the coronavirus, the secular authorities have called on the faithful not to observe the fast in order to not make it vulnerable to “infectious diseases”. In Dushanbe, the capital, the people are shaking hands hugging and crying for ramadan, although more people wear the mask as usual.