Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations

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23/05/20

Abbas Al Haj Ahmed talks with his cousin Adam Bazzi over a video call while their family eats at iftar. (File/AFP)
  • Eid is neither the first nor only religious holiday to fall victim to the virus
  • Muslim community figures and imams have stated that they will be livestreaming their Eid prayers to ensure that people adhere to lockdown and curfew rules, wherever they are in the world

LONDON: Muslims across the globe are bracing themselves for an unprecedented Eid Al-Fitr, one where lavish lunches and rooms filled with relatives and loved ones will be replaced with laptops and tablets.

Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that Eid Al-Fitr will begin on Sunday, May 24. This year, however, Muslims around the world are being forced to adapt to new circumstances given the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Movement and large gatherings have been prohibited in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to receive some ka’ak cookies from my aunties, but I’ll be spending Eid alone. My parents live in China. I might ask them to have a video call with me. I miss them,” Sara Ahmad, who lives in Cairo, told Arab News.

“I always used to go for Eid prayers with my family on the morning of, but since mosques are closed, I might do it alone at home,” she said.

“If I get really lonesome, then I might stop by an aunt’s house for breakfast. I’ll be sure to have no physical contact with her though,” Ahmad added.

Eid is neither the first nor only religious holiday to fall victim to the virus. Last month, Christians around the world also had to celebrate Easter at home. Pope Francis livestreamed his Easter vigil from an empty St. Peter’s Basilica after conducting a Good Friday service to usher in the festival weekend.

“I live in a hotel in India and I’m quarantined there. I asked permission from the hotel manager to let my Indian friend join me tomorrow,” Lebanese Sarah Siblini told Arab News.

“Otherwise I’ll be having a zoom call with my family and another one with university friends from around the world,” she said.

After traveling back to Lebanon from Dubai, Lebanese consultant Houssam Rifai was forced to self-isolate for 14 days following rules issued by the government for everyone coming into the country from abroad.

“It’s been very tough not seeing anyone for this long,” Rifai told Arab News on his ninth day of self-isolation.

“And now I’ll have to spend Eid in an Airbnb alone. Usually, we have a huge lunch at my grandma’s place with family from all over the country, even some who travel back to Beirut from abroad like me,” he said.

“I’ll have a video call with my parents and speak to my friends, but this is definitely not the Eid I was expecting,” he added.

Much like their Christian counterparts, Muslim community figures and imams have stated that they will be livestreaming their Eid prayers to ensure that people adhere to lockdown and curfew rules, wherever they are in the world.

In the UK, imams sought to use both livestreams and WhatApp groups to ensure the tradition continues, albeit with a few changes. Many, however, say that a virtual Eid is not the same as an in-person one.

“Usually, I would go to the market and get some food and desserts. Then at night, I would go to the mosque for Eid prayers and meet up with friends at restaurants afterward,” Syrian Zouhir Al-Shimale, who lives in London, told Arab News.

“I would also go visit my brothers and their families, but now everything has changed.”

While many have been adopting a virtual approach to Eid, others have chosen to still meet in person while maintaining the appropriate distance from one another.

“I’ve been going to my village almost every year since I was a baby. We are a big extended family, and we usually gather at my grandpa’s, but this year not everyone feels comfortable with gathering,” Beirut-based Aya Chamseddine told Arab News.

“Some feel guilty; they’ll just drive to say hi to grandparents and go back to Beirut,” she said. “It’s definitely not the same.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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