How COVID-19 Has Affected Ramadan Worldwide

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Sarah Peddie

We are almost at the end of the first week of Ramadan and billions of Muslims around the world have had to adapt to the current Covid-19 worldwide pandemic and how it is affecting the holy month. 

The coronavirus has made a huge impact on how fasting, prayers and socialising is conducted during the festival but how has it affected Muslim communities around the world?

In Saudi Arabia Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud said in a statement that it was important to maintain social distancing throughout Ramadan to try and stop the spread of covid-19. The city of Mecca - the holiest city in Islam and home to the Kaaba is currently under 24 hour curfew. 

In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, King Salman said: "It pains me to welcome the glorious month of Ramadan under circumstances that forbid us of prayers in Mosques and of performing the Ramadan prayers.”

Many Muslim majority countries have banned communal prayers and family gatherings. Iran is the Muslim-majority country that is hardest hit by the pandemic with official figures stating that there are over 92,000 cases in the country and around 5,800 deaths (as of 28 April). 

The Iranian authorities have in phases allowed the reopening of some businesses since 11 April that were closed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus and were done to stop the spread. Mosques remain closed until further notice and the authorities have ordered that iftar meals should be kept to immediate family instead of extended family and friends gathering to break their day-time fasts. 

In Pakistan, the Government has had to come to an agreement to keep mosques open during the holy month of Ramadan. However, despite the mosques being kept open, there are rules that have to be followed such as people keeping six feet apart during prayers, denying entry of the old and ill and banning handshakes but these rules will be difficult to enforce across the thousands of mosques in the country. 

With the world’s largest Muslim population, in Indonesia mainstream Islamic organisations have asked the public not to hold mass prayers or have communal meals. Jakarta has kept people in lockdown since the outbreak - and they have been complying to the rules. 

However, in the conservative Aceh province - citizens attended Ramadan prayers despite warnings by the Government.

In the United Kingdom - the Muslim Council of Britain has advised people to attend virtual iftars and tune into livestreams by their local mosques. It is the same in the United States where people have opted for video calling to substitute in-person gatherings.

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