Coronavirus: Muslims prepare to celebrate Eid al Fitr under shadow of COVID-19 pandemic
As Ramadan comes to an end, Britain’s 2.6 million Muslims are preparing to celebrate one of their biggest holidays known as Eid al Fitr under the shadow of a global pandemic.
While Ramadan is about fasting and giving, so much of the month is also about gathering to pray, to reflect and to give to those in need.
But COVID-19 has had a huge impact on the Islamic holy month.
Eid is celebrated at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan and at a time when people should be revelling with their families, many are instead mourning the loss of loved ones.
Kefiat Ullah, 58, died in hospital after contracting coronavirus. He was diabetic. Mr Ullah’s family was hoping he would survive but he didn’t.
“The things that I will probably miss the most about Eid with my dad is praying, being supported by him spiritually and walking to the mosque with him,” his son, Areeb, said.
“I’ll also miss his smile and presence the most. He used to teach at the mosque and people loved him. One thing we do on Eid is hug after prayers and I am going to miss his hugs a lot.
“But now we don’t even have the mosque where we can go, which makes it a lot harder – this crisis really does bring it home that he is not here anymore.”
Mr Ullah, a father of three, was a regular at Masjid Ayesha, one of the oldest mosques in Tottenham, north London.
He is one of six worshippers from the mosque to die during the pandemic.
Due to social distancing and lockdown guidelines mourners have not been able to pay their respects in the usual way.
Black and Asian people have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus, and this mosque is no different.
“When someone dies people come to your house to support you, bring food and pay their respects but the fact we’ve not been able to do any of that has had a huge impact on the process,” said Areeb.
“We have not been able to mourn properly and even seeing my mum having to mourn with her sisters through Zoom or WhatsApp has been devastating.”
For Muslims like Areeb, Ramadan is a time to practice their spirituality. But many rituals and traditions have been upended.
He said: “We are forcing ourselves to adjust to this new reality that we are living in now. Eid is going to be different for us.
“We won’t be able to pray with him anymore. Now we will have to just think of the memories. One blessing in disguise though is this has brought me and my brothers closer. I think this will draw our communities closer like never before.”
Instead of mass gatherings for celebrations or late-night prayers, Imam Sheikh Khidir Hussain of Masjid Ayesha has found a way to offer a sense of hope to his community during these difficult times.
He said: “A lot of people are feeling a spiritual disconnection. This is challenging for people but we are trying to keep everyone engaged although they are at home.
“While the mosque is closed we are still reaching out to the community on social media. We are delivering prayers, lectures and recitations from the Qur’an all online.”
He said the changes are being felt throughout the community and this Ramadan and Eid is like no other he or many will ever have experienced.
“Six of our regular members who would attend this congregation who I used to see on a regular basis are no longer here. Unfortunately COVID won and they lost.
“This is a tough time for us but we must remain optimistic. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel.”