COVID enforced austerity for Muslims celebrating Eid



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by Dr M. Haris Z Deen


On Sunday 24th of this month will see the end of a period of fasting from dawn to dusk enjoined by Allah upon the followers of Prophet Muhammad (Upon Whom be Peace). Muslims all over the world, by now will be preparing to celebrate the culmination of their enduring the pangs of hunger and foregoing most of the worldly pleasures (normally permitted at other times) during the period of fasting. Muslims are permitted to celebrate only two occasions. One is the Eid Ul Fitr at the end of the period of fasting and one at the end of the performance of Haj on the tenth of the Lunar month called in Arabic Dhul Hajja. This being the case, Muslims try to make the most of it, being lavish in any way then can to celebrate these two occasions in the grandeur it deserves. Apart from social gatherings, exchanges of gifts and greetings, visits to family and friends, the most important event is the Eid congregational prayer. It has been recommended that the Eid prayer should be conducted in a public place so that as many people can congregate and the prophet of Islam (On whom be Peace) instructed all women and children to attend the Eid services. Even menstruating women for whom prayer is taboo until they become clean, are advised to attend, although not to take part in the prayer ceremonies. That is the extent of the importance of the Eid rites.


However, this year Corona Virus has taken over and put everything into disarray. This mini micro organism appears to be so powerful to have curtailed all the nativity festivities of the Christian population all over the world during Easter, prevented the Buddhists and the Hindus from their usual communal functions during the Sinhala and Hindu new year and completely truncated the festivities associated with Vesak. Now it is time for the Muslims to have a taste of COVID 19 power.


The Grand Mufthi of the two holy mosques in Makka and Medina, has issued an edict that each family should conduct the Eid prayers in their own homes devoid of the sermon, and this would suffice. The All Ceylon Jamiyathul Ulama and the Director of Muslim Religious Affairs have issued the same directives. They particularly advised to show restraint in lavish spending on new clothes and the usual grand Eid feast consisting of biriyani and watilapan and to be modest and stay at home to be safe. However, these restrictive measures do not mean religious rites are excused or to be abandoned. Far from it, the Grand Mufthi has given guidance to the Muslims, as to how the Eid prayer can be conducted in their own homes and this would be acceptable as having fulfilled their religious obligations.


Aside from these restrictions and measures, Eid is a great time for people to show mercy upon the less fortunate people in the community, that is why Islam has enjoined the sharing of food with the needy in the gifting of two and a half measures of the staple food (rice in the case of Sri Lanka) as Zakat ul Fitr. It is a compulsory obligation upon the breadwinner in the family to give this Zakat on behalf of himself, his wife and dependant children including on behalf of a child in his wife’s womb. Thus it is expected that every one rich and the poor will at least have a meal on the Eid day.


Ramadan for Muslims is not only a period of fasting refraining from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. It is much more. It is like a "workshop" where one is trained to endure hardship for a very short period to learn application of this practice during the other eleven months of the year. Those who gain this experience will certainly be a winner.


However, what is noticeable this year is that COVID 19 has instilled such a fear on most people who were "skinflint" at other times has suddenly become generous and most importantly COVID imposed austerity is remarkably observant.


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