Muslims brace up for an unusual Ramadan
Empty mosques and fast-breaking feasts canceled, Muslims around the world are bracing up for an unprecedented Ramadan under coronavirus Lockdown on Friday.
Mecca's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site, was among those bereft of worshippers as the holy month commenced with an unusual ‘hush-hush.’
The sacred Kaaba played host to empty tents -- a large cube-shaped structure in the Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world pray -- in the most potent sign of how the daytime fasting month will be a somber affair across Muslim-majority nations.
Ramadan is typically a paradox of social communion, but this year strict lockdowns limit gatherings for iftar meals at dusk when the fast is broken -- a centerpiece of Ramadan.
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In Indonesia, the usual Pomp has been replaced by a gloomy ambiance following strict measures enforced to mitigate the pandemic. The world's biggest Muslim-majority nation has embraced a stay at home lifestyle.
"This Ramadan is very different -- it's just not festive," said Indonesian housewife Fitria Pamela.
"I'm disappointed that I can't go to the mosque, but what can we do? The world is different now."
Similar sentiments reverberate across the Middle East and North Africa, where multiple towns and cities are under round-the-clock curfew.
The majority of Islamic states have also taken precautions that dampens the Joy of Ramadan to a great extent.
In recent weeks, waves of infections in Asia linked to separate, massive Islamic congregations in Malaysia, Pakistan, and India has put a red flag on public gatherings.
The fear of the virus overwhelming an underfunded healthcare system compounded by a growing number of confirmed coronavirus cases has impeded the hopes of lifting the Lockdown
To limit exposure, the World Health Organization has urged countries to "stop large numbers of people gathering" in places associated with Ramadan activities, such as entertainment venues, markets, and shops.
Mohamad Shukri Mohamad, the top Islamic cleric in the conservative Malaysian state of Kelantan, planned to skip public prayers and family meals -- even if it meant not seeing his six children and 18 grandchildren.
"This is the first time in my life that I've been unable to go to the mosque," he told AFP.
"But we must accept it and obey the rules of social distancing to protect our lives."