Muslims perform Eid prayers, socially distanced and masked

JAKARTA/KOLKATA/CAIRO (Reuters) – Masked and socially distanced to fight the coronavirus, Muslims around the world held prayers on Friday to mark the festival of Eid al-Adha, with mosques at reduced capacity and some praying in the open air.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz, 84, whose country is home to two of Islam’s holiest sites, tweeted holiday congratulations a day after leaving hospital in Riyadh. The Haj pilgrimage is being held in the country with attendance drastically reduced.

In Istanbul, Muslims held Eid al-Adha prayers at Hagia Sophia for the first time since the historic building was reconverted to a mosque this month following a court ruling revoking its status as a museum that drew criticism from Western countries.

In Lebanon, devastated by economic crisis, many found it hard to afford traditional Eid customs. In Tripoli, the country’s second city, there were no decorations or twinkling lights, and no electricity to power them.

Instead, a large billboard read: “We’re broke.”

Around the world, the festival had to fit in with the realities of the coronavirus.

In Indonesia, the religious ministry asked mosques to shorten ceremonies, while many cancelled the ritual of slaughtering livestock and distributing meat to the community.

Instead sheep, goats and cows were being killed in abattoirs to mark the ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’, celebrated by Muslims to commemorate Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail at God’s command.

“This year’s Eid al-Adha is very different from previous years because we need to follow health protocols as we perform prayers, like maintaining social distancing,” said Devita Ilhami, 30, who was at the Sunda Kelapa mosque in Jakarta.

She said they had to bring their own prayer mats, with markers on the ground to show where they should be laid.

Elsewhere in Asia, Muslims including in Thailand and Malaysia prayed in or outside mosques wearing masks.

In Malaysia, while some mosques cancelled the ritual of slaughtering livestock, 13 cows were killed in the traditional way, but under rules limiting the number of animals and people at the Tengku Abdul Aziz Shah Jamek mosque in Kuala Lumpur.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attended prayers in Kabul. Islamist Taliban militants say they will observe a three-day ceasefire for the holiday, offering some respite from weeks of violence.

In India, where Eid will be celebrated mostly from Saturday, several states have eased coronavirus restrictions to allow worshippers to gather in mosques in limited numbers.

“Only small groups of worshippers will be allowed into mosques,” said Shafique Qasim, a senior cleric at the Nakhoda mosque in the eastern city of Kolkata.

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