The Islamic holy month of Ramadan has yet to begin as the two billion Muslims majority of the world almost find themselves under some sort of lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For Muslims, Ramadan is usually a time of community coming together in communal Taraweeh prayers and iftar meals to break their daily fast at sunset. For this, mosques play a vital role holding Taraweeh prayers and providing public iftars to bring the community together and offer a vital source of food for the poor in society.
But this year, Muslims around the world will not be able to experience the communal traditions of Ramadan due to lockdown limitations.
While Muslims are still expected to fast between sunrise and sunset, religious authorities in key Islamic countries including Saudi Arabia and UAE have ordered that prayers be done at home to contain the virus which can be spread via communal gatherings in mosques.
However, other countries such as Pakistan are keeping mosques open – with critics saying this could put public health in risk and undermine efforts to tackle coronavirus.
Here we have a country-by-country guide to how Muslims are able to celebrate Ramadan.
Ramadan under COVID-19 lockdown in the Arabian Gulf
Unlike the rest of its Gulf neighbors, Bahrain will host the communal Taraweeh prayers in its Al-Fateh Grand Mosque.
The prayers however will only involve the imam and five people at a time under social distancing rules. The prayers will likely be shown on television, according to the sources familiar with the matter.
Elsewhere in the kingdom, mosques and prayer rooms are still suspended following a March 23 lockdown announcement.
Kuwait has made the extension in lockdown in its already relatively strict curfew to last until the end of May including the whole of Ramadan.
The country shut mosques and appeal people to pray at home on March 13 and has yet to reopen facilities.
Oman has already announced a ban on mass gatherings including prayers for Ramadan as it experiences a rise in COVID-19 cases.
“The committee stresses the importance of avoiding all gatherings during the Holy Month of Ramadan,” said Oman’s Supreme Committee for dealing with COVID-19 in a statement on Tuesday.
“[The committee] affirms that the closure of mosques – even for Taraweeh prayers – will continue, except for the call to prayer (Azaan),” read the statement.
Qatar has also shut mosques and suspended cummunal prayers, with no notice of them reopening for Ramadan.
“Ramadan gatherings, such as iftar in mosques, tents or Muslim cummunal gatherings and social, cultural, sports and other group activities are strictly prohibited,” read the statement.
Saudia Arabia has imposed strict lockdown measures for its citizens as the COVID-19 cases continue to rise. The measures include suspension of all prayers at mosques.
Saudi Arabia is home to Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina.
This year the kingdom is not hosting communal Taraweeh prayers as it was asked to be held at home, according to an announcement by the Kingdom’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh.
He added that if the pandemic continues throughout Ramadan, then communal Eid al-Fitr prayers at the end of the month should also be held at home.
Earlier, the Kingdom had suspended Umrah so pilgrims will be unable to make the pilgrimage during Ramadan this year.
The Council of Scholars has also urged Muslims across the world to pray at home if they live in countries where lockdowns have been imposed.
United Arab Emirates
United Arab Emirates has also suggested that prayers can be done at home during Ramadan, as mosques currently remain shut.
The Emirates Fatwa Council, a body which issues fatwas or religious rulings, urged on Monday for Muslims to pray at home and ruled that the Taraweeh prayer could be done at home too.
The ruling reiterated an earlier ruling from the Emirate of Dubai’s Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department advised Muslims to hold Taraweeh prayers at home.
The council also said that COVID-19 patients and frontline medical workers were exempt from fasting.
Ramadan under COVID-19, In Middle East and North Africa
Algeria closed its mosque on March 17 to contain coronavirus and are set to remain shut for Ramadan.
“Quran recitations and religious speeches will be broadcast from minarets during Ramadan”, according to the head of Algeria’s Fatwa Committee Muhammad Adir Mashnan.
Egypt was the first Muslim country that was reported to be suspending communal iftars and prayers during Ramadan.
The country announced on April 7 that it would be suspending all Ramadan activities including group iftars due to the pandemic.
On Saturday, Egypt’s top Sunni Muslim authority Al-Azhar confirmed that Muslims would still be expected to fast during the holy month of Ramadan.
Iran being one of the worst-hit countries by the pandemic in the Middle East, has been gradually reopening major businesses in the recent weeks as the economy struggles under COVI-19 and US sanctions.
However, mosques remain closed across the country, with Friday prayers canceled.
Iraq has lifted the curfew imposed on March 15 ahead of Ramadan. New measures will allow movement inside Baghdad during the daytime hours of 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. and some shops to reopen.
However, it is unclear whether authorities will tolerate mass gatherings for Ramadan.
Jordan will also ban mosque prayers during the Ramadan according to a government minister on April 14. The kingdom has enforced a strict lockdown in the capital Amman, arresting people who leave their homes.
Libya remains in a state of conflict which is setting the country up for a disastrous coronavirus outbreak, experts and international organisations said.
Control of the country is split between the UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) supported by a variety of militias and the Benghazi-based Libyan National Army led by Gen. Khalifa Haftar.
The LNA announced a curfew in the region it controls on March 18. The GNA did likewise on March 22. It is unclear whether mosques are open in either of the curfews.
Lebanon is under a state lockdown with mosques across the country currently closed.
However, footage has emerged from the northern city of Tripoli showing Muslims continuing to congregate for Friday prayers despite the restrictions on mass gatherings.
Morocco, as part of its lockdown measures imposed on March 20 closed all mosques. The government has extended those measures until May 20, covering most of Ramadan.
Jerusalem’s Al- Aqsa mosque compound will be closed to Muslim worshippers throughout Ramadan, announced the Jordan-appointed council that oversees Islam’s third-holiest site on Thursday.
The decision extends a ban on Islamic prayers at the holy compound, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary that has been in effect since March 23.
The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the Palestinian Territories Muhammad Hussein has also advised against the public sighting of the crescent moon, which is used to estimate the start of Ramadan.
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas shut down all mosques for two weeks.
The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad in Damascus has announced that mosques will remain closed for communal prayers until at least May 2.
Syria is still in a state of war, with areas including parts of the northwestern Idlib province controlled by anti-government opposition forces.
Tunisia also suspended prayers and closed mosques in mid March. They have not been reopened ahead of Ramadan.
Turkey had suspended mass prayers in mosques on March 16, when the country only had 18 coronavirus cases.
Last week, the Turkey’s senior religious body confirmed that mosques will remain closed for Taraweeh prayers and other communal prayers during Ramadan.
The religious body also called on Muslims to avoid hosting large communal iftar meals and practice social distancing.
Ramadan under COVID-19 in the rest of the world
Bangladesh has a population of about 168 million people, around 80 percent of the people in the country are Muslim and have been under a state of nationwide lockdown since March 26.
The prime minister has called on Bangladeshis to pray at home during Ramadan, but the order was opposed from country’s clerics who have called on Muslims to turn out in their masses for daily prayers.
Last week, tens of thousands of people opposed the lockdown to attend the funeral of a top Islamic preacher.
A month before, at least 25,000 people attended a Muslim prayer meeting in a field in the southern city of Raipur to chant “healing verses” to rid the country of the deadly virus.
India has around 15 percent of people being Muslim, the country is home to 201 million Muslims – making it the country with the second-largest Muslim population in the world.
The Indian government has imposed a strict nationwide lockdown, although some states slightly eased restrictions on Monday.
On Thursday, Islamic scholars in India appealed to Muslims to remain home when praying and follow the nationwide lockdown.
The country had previously experienced controversy when Muslims were accused of spreading the virus due to a religious congregation in a mosque in New Delhi in early March, despite members other faiths also congregating in India during March.
Indonesia is the world’s largest Muslim-majority country, home to an estimated 229 million Muslims.
On Tuesday, the country banned its traditional annual exodus – known as “mudik” – when millions of Muslims leave cities at the end of Ramadan to visit their families in the countryside.
Last year, about 19.5 million people in the archipelago of more than 260 million people made the journey, the government says, and President Joko Widodo added that 7 percent of Indonesians had already set out this year.
In a study last week, researchers at the University of Indonesia’s public health faculty warned that if the exodus home were permitted, it could lead to a million infections by July on the most populous island of Java, home to Jakarta.
President Widodo had resisted pressure to impose a lockdown until recently, when a limited shutdown was imposed on the capital Jakarta in early April, with the measures including limits on religious events.
Indonesian Ministry of Religious Affairs has also issued guidelines that Taraweeh prayers and Quran recitations should be performed at home, according to reports. Public Eid prayers have also been canceled.
France has shut all 2,800 mosques and prayer rooms in the country since March 15. The country is home to Europe’s largest Muslim minority population,
“During Ramadan, Taraweeh (night prayers) will be suspended and all prayers will be performed at home,” said Moussaoui Moussaoui, president of the French Council of Muslim Faith (CFCM), as quoted in Arab News.
“We called on imams to use all means of communication at their disposal to connect with people, so some imams have recorded sermons and prayers and uploaded them online,” he added.
Nigeria is home to Africa’s largest Muslim population— has issued guide for Muslims to avoid social and religious gatherings during Ramadan.
The country has banned large gatherings amid the threat of coronavirus.
The country’s senior Islamic body, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, has announced that Taraweeh prayers in mosques should be suspended for Ramadan due to COVID-19.
The decision of prayers suspension, posted on the organization’s website and signed by director Alh. Ysuf Nwoha, cited the closure of mosques in Saudi Arabia in its reasoning.
Pakistan, unlike most other Muslim countries, has lifted restrictions on congregational prayers at mosques ahead of Ramadan.
The South Asian nation, the second most populous Muslim country in the world, imposed the restrictions less than a month ago, allowing only three to five people at mosques for prayers.
Later, after a meeting between President Arif Alvi and religious leaders, it was announced that the restrictions were lifted, meaning Muslims can pray at mosques during Ramadan.
Anyone visiting or praying at a mosque is required to wear a face mask and maintain a two-meter distance from each other, contrary to the usual practice of praying shoulder-to-shoulder.
The government had been under pressure to reverse the congregation restrictions, clashes in this regards between worshippers and police had been reported in Karachi.
UK government has announced all places of worship including mosques must be close under its lockdown in late March.
On Friday, one of the country’s leading Muslim figures said that mosques would remain closed during Ramadan unless the lockdown would be lifted.
“It would be deemed extremely irresponsible to congregate for Taraweeh prayers or hold religious gatherings during this Ramadan in any mosque or houses with people who are not members of the immediate household,” said Qari Asim, the chair of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board told the Guardian.
United States of America
The rules for lockdowns and religious gatherings vary state by state in the US, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases and deaths in the world.
In the US, there are around 3.5 million Muslims– around 1 percent of the population.
The Islamic Society of North America and other Muslim groups have called for prayers and gatherings to be suspended during Ramadan.
US President Donald Trump caused controversy last week after he suggested that officials enforcing lockdown measures would treat Muslims less severely than Christians.
“I would say that there could be a difference and we’ll have to see what will happen. Because I’ve seen a great disparity in this country,” he said in a press conference, adding “they go after Christian churches but they don’t tend to go after mosques.”
States including Kansas and Kentucky imposed restrictions on religious gatherings during Easter, prompting a criticism from some who accused governors of imposing on their constitutional right to worship freely.