Muslims around the world on Tuesday (20/7), celebrated Eid al-Adha in the shadow of the pandemic, and amid growing concerns about the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of Sacrifice, is usually marked by congregational prayers, large social gatherings and, for many, the slaughtering of sacrificial animals and distributing the meat to those in need.
This year, the Muslim holiday comes as many countries battle the Delta variant that was first identified in India, prompting several countries to impose new restrictions or issue calls to avoid gatherings and follow health protocols.
This year’s pandemic has limited the activities of the Hajj pilgrimage whose last day coincides with the commemoration of Eid al-Adha. Every year, this one worship attracts about 2.5 million Muslims from all over the world to come to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This year’s Hajj was only attended by 60,000 people who had previously been in the country — both nationals and foreign nationals.
Indonesia marks a gloomy Eid amid a new wave of worrying coronavirus cases. The world’s most populous Muslim-majority country prohibits large gatherings and restricts travel strictly, so that the homecoming activity that usually participates in this holiday does not happen.
Vice President Ma’ruf Amin, who is also an influential cleric, appealed to the public to carry out Eid prayers at home with their families. “Don’t gather,” Amin said in televised remarks ahead of the start of the holiday. “Protecting yourself from the COVID-19 pandemic is mandatory.”
In Malaysia, security measures were tightened after a sharp spike in infections despite having imposed lockdown nationwide since June 1. People are prohibited from going back to their hometowns or traveling to celebrate it. Visits to neighbors’ homes and pilgrimages to graves are also prohibited.
Healthy worshipers are allowed to gather for prayers in mosques, with strict social distancing and no physical contact. The activity of slaughtering sacrificial animals is limited to mosques or other approved places.
Lockdown also severely restricted Eid celebrations in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia’s two largest cities. Jihad Dib, a member of parliament for the New South Wales state government, said Muslims in Sydney, his city, were sad but understood why they had to stay at home and not accept visitors.
Iran enforces lockdown for a week in the capital, Tehran, and the surrounding area, to coincide with Eid al-Adha. State media reported that the move was taken as the country was struggling to cope with the surge in new cases of the coronavirus.
Not all countries have strict restrictions. In Bangladesh, authorities have allowed a pause lockdown for eight days to allow Muslims to celebrate the holiday, despite strong warnings from health experts about the risks.
In Egypt, a resident named Essam Shaban traveled to his hometown of Sohag, in the south, to spend the Eid holidays with his family. He performed congregational prayers at a mosque there while taking precautions such as bringing his own prayer rug and wearing a mask. [ab/uh]