The ninth month of the Islamic calendar began last week for Muslims everywhere. A time for spiritual reflection, Ramadan would usually have brought the 1.8 billion strong community together, but 2020 has proven to be a tough year for all.
From the Middle East and Africa to Europe, America and Asia, most mosques are shut and entire countries are locked in.
Daily prayers, teachings and family gatherings are being held via video-conferencing apps while the homeless and poor receive pre-packaged boxes of food to maintain social distancing.
As practicing Muslims prepare to celebrate a less festive, more solemn Ramadan, we take you around the world to see how different countries are marking this holy month:
Saudi Arabia closed all its mosques and cancelled the year-round Umrah pilgrimage to curb the spread of the coronavirus that has affected thousands of people in the country.
For the first time in its 1400-year history, Islam’s most sacred sites — the Grand Mosque in Mecca and the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina — remain closed to followers during the fasting period.
There are curbs on large gatherings for prayers and public feasts as well. The mosque in Mecca broadcasts prayers live on television with only the clerics, cleaners and security staff in attendance.
On 27 April 2020, Saudi Arabia relaxed daytime curfews everywhere except Mecca for the month of Ramadan. Some businesses have reopened with social distancing rules in place, and people are allowed to leave their homes between 9am and 5pm until 13 May 2020.
United Arab Emirates
The country has shut all its mosques to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Muslims in the UAE will perform congregational and taraweeh prayers at home.
While malls have partially been reopened as of end of April, Dubai directed people to shop for Ramadan groceries only if they feel well, and urged families to limit the number of people heading out. The authorities have also issued a safety guide for everyone to follow, especially during this month when they anticipate more activity.
A time that has always brought people together, Ramadan this year has become all about reminding everyone not to visit extended families or friends. Muslims in UAE have been encouraged to begin this sacred season by praying in their homes and avoiding large gatherings.
Egypt has allowed its shopping malls and businesses to reopen for Ramadan on weekends, but with shorter working hours. Nightly curfews will begin at 9pm instead of 8pm.
The country’s Ministry of Religious Endowments had said that all congregational religious activities would be banned for Ramadan, including the taraweeh night prayers and any congregational iftar.
It also added that the ban will also apply to the religious practice of seclusion when Muslims spend the last 10 days of Ramadan in mosques in religious contemplation.
Egypt’s Islamic Institute has urged families to reunite and spend time with each other during quarantine. As for the entertainment to ward off boredom, many are looking forward to the annual Ramadan soap operas.
With the world’s largest Muslim population, Indonesia has temporarily banned road, air and sea travel to prevent tens of millions of people from travelling to visit their loved ones for Ramadan.
President Widodo encouraged Muslims to focus on private prayer and to make fasting a personal worship. Mosques remain open but people are urged to avoid praying in large groups, and in rural areas, there are task forces that check on social distancing and hygiene.
Traders took to social media as the government banned traditional Ramadan markets in Malaysia to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Foods such as rendang, pulut, char kway teow and grilled lamb found their way to the Facebook feeds of Malaysians days before Ramadan began.
The Malaysian government’s movement control order has shut all mosques thus moving people into their homes to pray. Restricted movement also means that many are unable to join their families in towns and villages to break fast with them.
Turkey’s Ottoman-era drummers are silent for the first time. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the country to ban an age-old custom that sees drummers waking people up for their pre-dawn meal during Ramadan.
The Turkish President has also called for weekend restrictions and extended lockdowns making it impossible for the faithful to pray together. However, a mosque in Istanbul has offered itself for a cause as essential as prayer — charity.
The Dedeman mosque collects food for the needy and encourages the rich to contribute. Inspired by the Ottoman-era “charity stone” — a small pillar stone erected at certain locations of the city to connect rich people with the poor — the Imam of Dedeman mosque has hung a list on the wall of the mosque where citizens who need help write their names and telephone numbers.
The Muslim minority in Sri Lanka is welcoming Ramadan in subdued fashion, following other beliefs that also celebrated Easter and Sinhalese New Year in quarantine.
The Wakf Board of Sri Lanka directed all mosques to be closed to public and refrain from hosting any congregational activity, such as iftar programs, Friday prayer, taraweeh prayer, among others.
Though the world waits for the virus to vanish, we hope the culture of giving stays long after Ramadan — and the pandemic — is over.
Our team at Wego wishes all our readers a peaceful and safe Ramadan.