Sunday Tribune

Eid comes with health warnings


AS MUSLIMS worldwide prepare for Eid al-fitr, local medical doctors and community elders are appealing to those celebratin­g to protect themselves and their loved ones.

They are asking the community to exercise caution, avoid pre-eid shopping among crowds, big social gatherings and large prayers.

Dr Shoyab Wadee, vice-president of the Islamic Medical Associatio­n of South Africa, said people needed to be responsibl­e in terms of physical distancing, wearing of masks, sanitising and avoiding large gatherings.

“There should be no hugging. While we know the Eid prayer is compulsory, we are asking people to have multiple prayers with smaller groups in outdoor arenas.

“Families getting together also need to restrict their numbers,” said Wadee.

He said it was always likely the Covid-19 numbers would increase at some stage.

“The virus has not gone from the community. We are seeing numbers are starting to increase again. We don’t have sufficient evidence that we are specially protected,” said Wadee.

Among the guidelines set out by the associatio­n is those travelling from abroad must isolate for 10 days, especially when exposed to travellers from India.

Dr Faisal Suliman, chairperso­n of the South African Muslim Network, said prayers should definitely be held outdoors.

“People should use their own prayer mats, sanitise and social distance. We are suggesting numerous small gatherings than the traditiona­l large gathering,” said Suliman.

He said the numbers were clearly increasing. “We are urging people to be cautious and follow normal protocols.”

Suliman said they were asking people who are sick or have arrived from overseas, especially red line countries like India and Brazil, to stay away.

“Anyone with cold-like symptoms or flu to also stay away,” he said.

Yusuf Patel, secretary general of the United Ulama Council of South Africa, said the day of Eid begins with a special prayer generally performed in an open air venue with large numbers of congregant­s.

“However, due to Covid-19, many venues have either cancelled mass open air venues or have restricted their numbers to 500 people as per government­al regulation­s.

“Multiple indoor venues have been arranged to accommodat­e the number of congregant­s.

“Congregant­s are advised to disperse immediatel­y after the prayers in a manner that will minimise close physical contact.

“They have also been advised to avoid handshakin­g and hugging which is generally characteri­stic for the day of Eid.

“Observing protocols while meeting friends and family however remains a huge challenge as people tend to let their guard down in family gatherings,” said Patel.

AV Mahomed, chairperso­n of the Grey Street Mosque, the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere, said they would be allowing only 250 people to the Eid prayer.

“The mosque has a capacity to cater for 7500 people on the three levels. But we are adhering to protocols and allowing only 250.

“That is the same number we have been allowing in the last two months.

“Last year the prayer was held with only 50 people, which was just the priest and the staff.

“On Eid day we usually get 5000 people. It is sad what the virus has done to us.

“For 140 years the mosque has been a meeting place for people of the city.

“The meeting of people will not be done in a large scale as we are accustomed to,” said Mahomed.

Moulana Abdullah Khan, of the Jamiatul Ulama KZN – Council of Muslim Theologian­s, said they were urging people to abide by the restrictio­ns.

“Our major concern is the Eid prayer which is traditiona­lly held in large gatherings.

“However, this year it has been recommende­d that the prayer takes places in mosques and smaller prayer facilities with fewer people,” said Khan.

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