Millions of Muslims in Africa began celebrating Eid al-Fitr holidays Sunday under tight coronavirus restrictions including bans on congregational prayers at mosques as well as dawn-to-dusk curfews in some countries.
Eid al-Fitr, a three-day Muslim holiday, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which the faithful fast most of the day, and is usually celebrated by lavish daytime feasts and gatherings.
Muslims would usually invite each other to feast and celebrate at their homes after finishing Eid payers early in the morning at mosques or sports grounds.
However with the ongoing restrictions stopping many people from gathering, most Muslims on the continent held their prayers at home to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Today we celebrate Eid-al Fitr in a surreal manner,” said Imam Rashid Omar of the Claremont Main Road Mosque in Cape Town, South Africa in a video sermon.
“We rejoice at having successfully completed our Ramadan fasting and devotions but at the same time we feel sad that we are unable to celebrate Eid physically with our loved ones.”
He said with mosques closed, Muslims had to forego their traditional practices of greeting each other with handshakes and warm hugs for completing the holy fasting month.
Omar said Muslims are thankful to God despite the challenging times they are experiencing, because they were able to complete Ramadan.
“This is the first Eid-al Fitr in my entire life that I have prayed at home. I miss joining some of my family to celebrate with them,” Cape Town resident Hassen Mohammed told Anadolu Agency via telephone.
Some Muslims in South Africa started observing Eid on Sunday while others will begin on Monday.
“I have resorted to using different social media platforms to get in touch with some of my family and friends who I can’t invite over to feast with me,” Mohammed said.
Most countries in Africa have also imposed night curfews barring people from moving late, restricting those who would stay out during nighttime.
In Rwanda, Muslims held Eid prayers and celebrations from their homes due to restrictions to contain the novel coronavirus.
In the past, national Eid prayers would be held at Nyamirambo regional stadium in the capital Kigali, but this year Muslim leaders held sermons via electronic media.
In a sermon broadcast on television, Sheikh Salim Hitimana, the mufti of Rwandan, urged Muslims to continue good acts practiced during the just-concluded holy month of Ramadan.
Hitimana also called for peaceful coexistence between Muslims and non-Muslims across the globe.
Sheikh Shaban Ramadhan Mubaje, the mufti of Uganda, joined a few government and Muslim leaders at the national mosque in the capital Kampala for Eid prayers.
The leaders prayed several meters from each other, as required by COVID-19 restrictions.
Mubajje requested that the government ease restrictions on places of worship, which have been under lockdown for the past two months.
“We need to pray in mosques. Since the situation on COVID-19 has improved, I request the government to allow us to go back to our mosques,” he said.
Mubajje urged Muslims to continue praying to Allah to save the world from the deadly pandemic, which has claimed countless lives.
President Yoweri Museveni, who usually hosts an Eid dinner for Ugandan Muslim leaders, said he would not host it this time due to the pandemic.
*Anadolu Agency correspondents James Tasamba, Hamza Kyeyune, and Godfrey Olukya contributed to this story from Rwanda and Uganda.
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