Cotabato City—Ramadan this year will never be the same for the world’s around two billion Muslims.
Definitely cancelled are night after-meal prayers called Tarawi in community mosques, as most muftis, including those in Saudi Arabia, have decided to suspend public congregational prayers due to the spread of cases of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection in many parts of the world.
A fatwa (opinion) released by the collegial Bangsamoro Dharul Ifta (House of Opinion) last month also suspends all religious activities, including those held weekly (Jum’a) Friday prayers, as well as the nightly congregational prayers in Ramadan.
In Metro Manila, both religious and government authorities have ordered closure of mosques, if only to help contain the dreaded COVID-19, through physical social distancing. The straight sa’f (line) rule in Muslim prayers requires each worshipper to at least get their feet connected as they perform each daily prayer.
Bangsamoro Mufti Abu Huraira Udasan declared the start of Ramadan on Friday, as moon-sighting teams deployed by the Dharul Ifta to strategic places in the Southern Philippines failed to establish the rise of a new moon Wednesday, April 22.
Amid COVID-19 perils, Udasan also declared last month the revival of the early morning supplication called Qunut in the first of five daily Muslim prayers. The Qunut supplication has been omitted by a later-day review of Islam, as a “less-significant” addition to the fajar (dawn) prayer.
Muslims fast by abstaining from solid and liquid intake in an average of 14 hours daily from late dawn to dusk. Even couples in legal wedlock are not supposed to be in intimate physical contact during daytime in Ramadan. Only old, age, illnesses, and menstrual period (for women) exempt Muslims from the absolute food and drink abstinence.
Otherwise, Ramadan is festive to Muslims as well as to non-Muslims. Socially, family members are reunited during the fasting season, which also economically provides a venue for Muslim and non-Muslim entrepreneurs cooked and raw foods items on stalls in afternoon and night Ramadan markets.
But not this year: Sheikh Jaafar Ali, a local religious authority, said the Imam (leader) in Masjidil Nabawi (Holy Mosque in Madina) shed tears, as he saw only a few dozens of people joining the mosque prayers as soon as the World Health Organization (WHO) released the international health protocol on the pandemic COVID-19.
The King of Saudi Arabia, as the Guardian of the most sacred places of worship to Muslims, has ordered a closure (for disinfection) and a temporary suspension of all religious activities in the Masjidil Haraam in Mecca and Masjidil Nabawi in Madina, according to Embassy advisory quoted by local pilgrimage authorities.
Processing of the Hajj Journey to those holy places in mid-June has also been put on hold by authorities in most countries, including the Philippines’ National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.
Minah Bualan Lintongan, a popular local disc-jockey, said Ramadan will be totally different this year from all previous ones. “It's a starkly different Ramadan this year. There will be a dramatic shift in our normal Ramadan activities and practices. Whether we like it or not, Ramadan this year will be in a restricted manner.”
Lintongan, born of a prominent Muslim clan, quoted a teaching of the Prophet Muhammad on epidemic which she posted on her Face Book account on Friday: “There is a hadith that says: ‘If you hear of a plague in a land, then do not go into it. If it happens in a land where you are, then do not go out of it’.”
“So, in this time of plague, the best thing to do is to stay home, stay quiet. Create a spiritual atmosphere inside our houses.”
She added: “We'll get through this In Shaa Allah.... (I wish a) blessed and peaceful Ramadan all my Muslim brothers and sisters around the globe.”