Muslims in Manipur prepare for Eid amid concerns over spread of COVID-19

The message of celebrating Eid al-Fitr at home during the pandemic could not be a bigger religious obligation upon Muslims than ever before.

As Eid is around the corner, many places in the world are gearing up for the festival amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Countries like Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Algeria, Indonesia and India have been getting ready for the Eid celebrations with certain restrictions as most of these nations are under lockdown.

Muslims in Manipur too are preparing for Eid-al-Fitr amid concerns over the increasing rate of COVID-19 positive cases in the state. At each and every corner of Pangal settled areas of every district, mini bazar selling clothes, jewelleries, shoes etc. are being opened. These mini bazaars are thronged by many people from all walks of life.

This Imphal Free Press reporter visited some of these mini bazaars at evening time on different days this week. While roaming around the mini bazaar of Kshetri Awang Leikai, near Rahmania ground, people are seen gathering at every shop and bargaining for items. Children are demanding their parents to buy what they like.

While interacting with one Rahman, who is an owner of a shop that sells clothes, he said that the clothes are from old stock. Though no new clothes are available due to pandemic and lockdown, even then the people are coming out to do shopping. He said that every year during Eid, he used to sell clothes of around Rs 1 lakh at his shop at Thangal bazar. But due to COVID-19 this year, he will not earn that much though he is selling in the interest of people.

He said, “The shoppers who are gathering here at mini bazaar are not only from Kshetrigao assembly constituency, many more from other assembly constituencies are coming here after getting information.”

The Moulvi of Alphata Masjid, said that traditionally, Eid is a festival celebrated with warmth and love among families and friends filled with festivities and food. Normally, Muslims would be thronging at mosques and households with frenzied activity. However, with mosques remaining closed for prayers and a ban imposed on mass congregations on Eid day, the usual gaiety and excitement were missing because of the threat of the deadly coronavirus. Perhaps for the first time in Manipur's history, Pangals will not be offering Eid prayers as the central and the state government have banned all religious congregations as part of the fight against COVID-19.

All leading Muslim religious institutions and top Muftis from the community have issued a unanimous decree that Muslims should not offer collective prayers on Eid, but remain at home and offer 'shukrana nafil' (optional thanksgiving) prayers individually.

One Samina, who was buying shoes for her children at mini bazaar, said, “Eid looks very different this year.”

If comparisons were to be drawn on how Muslims usually celebrate Eid and how it is going to be celebrated now, it all appears unsettlingly. But the message of celebrating Eid al-Fitr at home during the pandemic could not be a bigger religious obligation upon Muslims than ever before.

“Eid day usually starts with congregational prayer in a nearby mosque. This is also an opportunity to meet and greet many who we ordinarily may not have seen for an entire year.

“It is a time for families, extended families and friends all coming together,” she said. “So, this is really difficult from a religious perspective. The blessed month of Ramadan is quickly moving towards its conclusion. There is an eerie feeling about this particularly Eid.”

“Usually, these last few days in the run up to the Eid preparations for the big day are in full swing. An all-round extra effort is made to connect with family and friends in an effort to actualise a unique sense of togetherness and shared happiness.

“Following the Eid prayer, the family festive mood takes over with family and friends who carry it further into late evening and often into the next day. The coronavirus has put an end to all this,” she added

First Published:May 23, 2020, 9:54 p.m.