Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations

Abbas Al Haj Ahmed talks with his cousin Adam Bazzi over a video call while their family eats at iftar. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 24 May 2020

Muslims worldwide go virtual for Eid Al-Fitr celebrations

  • Eid is neither the first nor only religious holiday to fall victim to the virus
  • Muslim community figures and imams have stated that they will be livestreaming their Eid prayers to ensure that people adhere to lockdown and curfew rules, wherever they are in the world

LONDON: Muslims across the globe are bracing themselves for an unprecedented Eid Al-Fitr, one where lavish lunches and rooms filled with relatives and loved ones will be replaced with laptops and tablets.

Saudi Arabia announced on Friday that Eid Al-Fitr will begin on Sunday, May 24. This year, however, Muslims around the world are being forced to adapt to new circumstances given the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Movement and large gatherings have been prohibited in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus.

“I’ve been pretty lucky to receive some ka’ak cookies from my aunties, but I’ll be spending Eid alone. My parents live in China. I might ask them to have a video call with me. I miss them,” Sara Ahmad, who lives in Cairo, told Arab News.

“I always used to go for Eid prayers with my family on the morning of, but since mosques are closed, I might do it alone at home,” she said.

“If I get really lonesome, then I might stop by an aunt’s house for breakfast. I’ll be sure to have no physical contact with her though,” Ahmad added.

Eid is neither the first nor only religious holiday to fall victim to the virus. Last month, Christians around the world also had to celebrate Easter at home. Pope Francis livestreamed his Easter vigil from an empty St. Peter’s Basilica after conducting a Good Friday service to usher in the festival weekend.

“I live in a hotel in India and I’m quarantined there. I asked permission from the hotel manager to let my Indian friend join me tomorrow,” Lebanese Sarah Siblini told Arab News.

“Otherwise I’ll be having a zoom call with my family and another one with university friends from around the world,” she said.

After traveling back to Lebanon from Dubai, Lebanese consultant Houssam Rifai was forced to self-isolate for 14 days following rules issued by the government for everyone coming into the country from abroad.

“It’s been very tough not seeing anyone for this long,” Rifai told Arab News on his ninth day of self-isolation.

“And now I’ll have to spend Eid in an Airbnb alone. Usually, we have a huge lunch at my grandma’s place with family from all over the country, even some who travel back to Beirut from abroad like me,” he said.

“I’ll have a video call with my parents and speak to my friends, but this is definitely not the Eid I was expecting,” he added. 

Much like their Christian counterparts, Muslim community figures and imams have stated that they will be livestreaming their Eid prayers to ensure that people adhere to lockdown and curfew rules, wherever they are in the world.

In the UK, imams sought to use both livestreams and WhatApp groups to ensure the tradition continues, albeit with a few changes. Many, however, say that a virtual Eid is not the same as an in-person one.

“Usually, I would go to the market and get some food and desserts. Then at night, I would go to the mosque for Eid prayers and meet up with friends at restaurants afterward,” Syrian Zouhir Al-Shimale, who lives in London, told Arab News.

“I would also go visit my brothers and their families, but now everything has changed.”

While many have been adopting a virtual approach to Eid, others have chosen to still meet in person while maintaining the appropriate distance from one another.

“I’ve been going to my village almost every year since I was a baby. We are a big extended family, and we usually gather at my grandpa’s, but this year not everyone feels comfortable with gathering,” Beirut-based Aya Chamseddine told Arab News.

“Some feel guilty; they’ll just drive to say hi to grandparents and go back to Beirut,” she said. “It’s definitely not the same.”


LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

Updated 10 min 53 sec ago

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

DUBAI: Efforts to return life gradually back to some kind of normality in parts of the Middle East continue, as governments get ready to reopen borders and airlines take bookings for flights. 
Tunisia said it will open its sea, land and air borders on June 27 in the hope of rescuing its tourism industry as the coronavirus pandemic comes under control.
Emirates airline also announced that it was taking bookings for flights from Dubai to 12 Arab countries from the start of July. Emirates began operating scheduled flight services to nine destinations around the world from May 21, including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s commercial complexes, hotels, cafes and museums reopened their doors to customers on Monday after closing for two-and-a-half months. 

June 2, Tuesday (GMT Times)

08:16 – Senegal has postponed the restart of schools until further notice after several teachers tested positive for the new coronavirus, the education ministry said late on Monday.

07:51 – Russia has confirmed 8,863 coronavirus cases and 182 deaths in the past 24 hours.

07:02 – A Wuhan doctor who worked with coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang died of the virus last week, state media reported Tuesday, becoming China's first COVID-19 fatality in weeks.
07:00 Paris gets some of its pre-lockdown life back as cafes and restaurants partially reopen Tuesday.
06:51 – The global coronavirus death toll has topped 375,000, according to AFP tally.

06:45 – The first Rohingya refugee died from coronavirus in Bangladesh, an official said.

05:59Egypt has sanitized prisons and carried out tests on prisoners across the country after banning visits to help curb the spread of coronavirus, local daily Egypt Today reported.

05:50 – A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. 

05:18 – The United States on Monday recorded 743 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, bringing its total to 105,099 since the global pandemic began.