By A.Q. Siddiqui
Ramadan 2020 was indoor worship for Muslims all over the world, however, Ramadan 2021 has kindled a light at the end of the tunnel. Prayers are resuming, cautiously and discreetly for the devote Muslims. For Muslims, Ramadan is a month of hectic worship with added numbers of voluntary night prayers and fasting from dawn to dusk. It is considered a month when the passion for worship is revived among believers and bounty of God is expected showering all around.
Prior to Covid 19 pandemic, the Ramadan month was greeted with religious fervor all over the world. People will throng to mosques, Iftar dinners were held, kids will in front line for fasting along with adults at home. But Covid 19 had dampened the spirit of Ramadan 2020 and the entire month was observed at home in most countries. Islam’s greatest shrines Makkah and Madina were closed. Al Aqsa mosque at Jerusalem was also closed. In normal circumstances, mosques all over the world will be full to capacity during the month of Ramadan. More than 2-million Umrah pilgrims used to circle holy Kaaba at Makkah 24 hours a day. But no one was there in 2020. As if God was not happy with mankind.
However, Ramadan 2021 is glimmering with new lights of hope and faith. Saudi Arabia, the custodian of Islam’s holiest shrines has opened Makkah and Madina mosques. Muslims all over the world are more than excited seeing pilgrims in holy mosque.
The steps taken by Saudi Government are exemplary cautious and commendable. While Saudi Government has extended ban on international flights and passengers into the kingdom till 17 May 2021, it has allowed local Arabs and expatriates to perform Umrah in limited number and adhering to strict regulations. Intending pilgrims are asked to register themselves on Tawakkalana App and wait for approval. Timings and Umrah schedule are allocated to each pilgrim through the App. Only Covid 19 vaccinated and mask wearing pilgrims are allowed under strict hygienic conditions. Social distancing is well maintained inside the Makkah and Madina mosques.
Makkah city has world’s largest chain of five-star hotels around the grand mosques. All these hotels are closed since March 2020. Hajj 2020 was allowed for a few locals under stringent health conditions. Saudi Arab Government has also recently announced Covid 19 vaccination a mandatory requirement for all intending pilgrims for Hajj 2021. Although, no Hajj announcement is made as of now. Makkah Live telecast on YouTube channel shows an exemplary cautious arrangement of Umrah pilgrims inside the grand mosque.
The Israeli government has also allowed prayers in Al Aqsa mosque for Arabs and Palestinians holding permits to Israel. Many Muslim Arabs in Jerusalem and West Bank thronged to Temple of Mount. However, Israeli security permitted only those holding Covid Vaccination documents. Worshipers joined prayers in Al Aqsa wearing mask and keeping social distancing.
The steps taken by Saudi and Israeli government allowing Ramadan worship under Covid precautions are laudable and a guide for worshipers all over the world.