Shomporko Desk:-DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Small gatherings of pilgrims performed one of the last ceremonies of the Islamic hajj on Friday as Muslims overall denoted the beginning of the Eid al-Adha occasion in the midst of a worldwide pandemic that has impacted about each part of the current year’s pilgrimage and festivities.
The last days of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia coincided with the four-day Eid al-Adha, or “Feast of Sacrifice,” in which Muslims slaughter livestock and distribute the meat to poor people.
The pandemic has driven millions of people around the globe closer to the edge of destitution, making it harder for some to fulfil the religious tradition of purchasing livestock.
In Somalia, the price of meat has slightly increased. Abdishakur Dahir, a civil servant in Mogadishu, said that for the first time he won’t be able to afford goat for Eid because of the impact of the virus on work.
In some parts of West Africa, the price of a ram has doubled. Livestock sellers, used to doing brisk business in the days before the holiday, say sales have dwindled and those who are buying can’t afford much.
The hajj pilgrimage has also been drastically impacted by the virus. Last year, some 2.5 million pilgrims took part, but this year as few as 1,000 pilgrims already residing in Saudi Arabia were allowed to perform the hajj.
The Saudi Health Ministry said there have been no cases of the COVID-19 illness among this year’s pilgrims. The government took numerous precautions, including testing pilgrims for the virus, monitoring their movement with electronic wristbands and requiring them to quarantine before and after the hajj. Pilgrims were selected after applying through an online portal, and all had to be between 20 and 50 years of age.
Just after dawn on Friday, small groups of pilgrims — masked and physically distancing — made their way toward the massive multi-story Jamarat Complex in the Saudi valley area of Mina. There, the pilgrims cast pebbles at three large columns. It is here where Muslims believe the devil tried to talk the Prophet Ibrahim, or Abraham, out of submitting to God’s will.
Muslims commemorate Ibrahim’s test of faith by slaughtering livestock and animals and distributing the meat to the poor.
During the last days of hajj, male pilgrims shave their heads and remove the terrycloth white garments worn during the pilgrimage. Women cut off a small lock of hair in a sign of spiritual rebirth and renewal.
The hajj, both physically and spiritually demanding, intends to bring about greater humility and unity among Muslims. It is required of all Muslims to perform once in a lifetime.
Sheikh Abdullah al-Manea, a member of the Supreme Council of Senior Scholars of Saudi Arabia, used the hajj sermon Friday to praise the kingdom’s leadership for their “wise decision” to limit the number of pilgrims and protect human life.
“We thank the positive role of Muslims around the world that have complied with the regulations of the country to protect them from the spread of this virus, which leads to the protection of Mecca and Medina,” the sheikh said.
Around the world, Muslims gathered with relatives or remained at home to mark the start of Eid.
In the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, streets were largely empty due to a 10-day lockdown imposed by authorities to prevent further spread of the virus. Eid prayers in mosques were cancelled.
“We had hoped that the curfew would be lifted during the Eid period … we were surprised that the lockdown period included the Eid holiday and more,” said Marwan Madhat, a Baghdad cafe owner. “This will cause losses.”
Kosovo and the United Arab Emirates have also closed mosques to limit the spread of the virus.
In Lebanon, Muslim worshippers prayed in mosques under tight security, despite a partial lockdown imposed on Thursday that will continue through Aug. 10. Worshippers at the Mohammad al-Amin Mosque in the capital, Beirut, spilled onto the street outside to maintain social distancing rules.
In Indonesia, home to the world’s largest population of Muslims, people were allowed to attend Eid prayers in mosques under strict health guidelines, including that they bring their own prayer mats and pray several feet apart from one another. Worshippers must wear masks and are not allowed to shake hands or hug.
Authorities in Indonesia also ordered that meat be delivered door-to-door to the poor to avoid long lines.
“This outbreak has not only changed our tradition entirely but has also made more and more people fall into poverty,” said Agus Supriatna, an Indonesian factory worker who was laid off this year because of the pandemic.
Muslim leaders in Albania and Kosovo called on people “to be careful” in their festivities to avoid transmission of the virus, including limiting family visits.
A few days ahead of the holiday, Alioune Ndong in Senegal said he did not know how he’d come up with the money for his family’s feast. He called on Senegal’s government to help struggling families like his.
“COVID-19 has drained my money,” said Ndong, a tailor based in the town of Mbour.
Photo credit: Saudi Ministry of Media via AP
News source: The Associated Press