Sadness and sacrifice of Ramadan and Eid in lockdown

Pic: Imam Qari Asim; Facebook

By Imam Qari Asim

Muslims have been forced to make many spiritual sacrifices during Ramadan and that will continue on Eid, the day of celebration that marks the end of the month of fasting, prayer and reflection.

Muslims in Leeds have shown great fortitude and resilience during Ramadan in lockdown, observing social distancing guidance and staying away from the mosque, which is usually the hub of religious and social interaction during the month.

Eid is a time of joy and celebration but this year our celebrations will be very different. There will be no Eid prayer in the mosque but I will deliver a sermon online on the morning of Eid and will connect with my congregation through Facebook, which is really surreal but we have no other choice. I am asking Muslims to enjoy Eid at home with family and use other means to connect with loved ones.

The Eid prayer is something that Muslims look forward to all year long. However, with mosques remaining closed in line with government guidance, no Eid prayer will take place in mosques or open spaces, or public parks this Eid. This is extremely challenging and distressing for us. There is a palpable sense of sadness in the community given that usually mosques are jam-packed with people on this auspicious day.

In normal circumstances, I would greet and hug hundreds of people on Eid day. Some people travel more than 20 miles to come to our Makkah Mosque in Leeds, to meet people and be part of the communal celebrations.

This is the first time in British Muslim history when there will be no public Eid prayer. Even when there were no mosques in most cities and towns in the 1960s, people would hire large halls to offer the Eid prayer in congregation. Now although we have mosques in every main town and city, they are shut to the public.

This is something that was totally unthinkable six months ago, but today the unthinkable has become reality.

Usually, on Eid I would visit over a dozen houses to join their celebrations and have a bite to eat with them. Instead, this Eid I am planning on baking cakes with my family and then dropping them off to those houses in the community that I would usually visit and also those living in isolation — keeping a social distance, of course.

In line with the published advice from the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab), on the one hand I am reassuring the Muslim community that the doors of the mosques are closed for everyone’s wellbeing and the protection of life; on the other hand, I am also urging people not to dampen the spirit of Eid. British Muslims must find that Eid spark and enjoy the festive at home.

Not being able to be with our loved ones this Eid will be painful but we must all get through this in the best way we can. We will all be stronger in our relationships with one another and in our appreciation of the gift of life when we come out of the Covid-19 restrictions.

On Eid day, I will still dress up and provide spiritual reflection online, and connect with my congregation virtually. I will spend the day with my family but also virtually connect with the community — videocalling members of my congregation, especially the elderly.

This year, Eid will be lonely for many people; although we may not be able to touch, hug or kiss our loved ones, we should ensure no one feels alone on this day of celebration.

Qari Asim, senior imam of Makkah Masjid in Leeds, chairs the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board