Arab countries are adapting Ramadan traditions to pandemic

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The month of Ramadan begins on Monday for some countries in the Americas and on Tuesday for most of the rest of the world. The exact starting time depends on the visibility of the new crescent moon, with the majority of Muslim countries following Saudi Arabia’s sighting of the new moon, which would be on Tuesday.

In this second year of the pandemic, regulations for Ramadan have had to be adapted.

To curb the number of infections, most countries have reduced the number of visitors at mosques to 20-30% of their usual capacity. Also wearing masks will be mandatory. In order to further avoid gatherings outside mosques, the traditional meals before sunrise and after sunset, Suhur and Iftar, which were often shared in public Ramadan tents, are banned throughout the region.

This will heavily affect people in need, who often ate for free at the breaking of the fast. Some countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, have promised to organize Iftar meal deliveries for poor people instead.

Consensus among religious authorities is that praying at home is the safest option during the month of Ramadan.

Some prayers may even be streamed.

Clerics in Egypt and Saudi Arabia agree with this differentiation and have issued fatwas, or religious verdicts, stating that online communal prayers are not valid. Their solution is rather “pray at home with loved ones.” In turn, a myriad of how-to videos and guides have been published online.

In Iran, prayers, speeches and Quranic recitations are transmitted on live feeds via social media, and even the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, held his annual Quranic recitation via video conference.

Photo: A child walks by a wooden mosque for Ramadan decoration during a celebration of the upcoming Ramadan holy month in Cairo, Egypt. Muslims around the world celebrate the holy month of Ramadan by praying during the night time and abstaining from eating, drinking, and sexual acts between sunrise and sunset. Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and it is believed that the revelation of the Koran’s first verses occurred during its last 10 nights. EPA-EFE/Mohamed Hossam

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