Delhi prepares for Ramzan in days of pandemicUpdated: Apr 24, 2020 23:28 IST
New Delhi: For Delhi, or Dilli, Ramzan -- the most important month in the Islamic calendar when Muslims observe fasts and perform special prayers each night -- is a festival.
For the entire month, specially in the old quarters, thousands gather every night for a grand feast at hundreds of eateries, and it continues till early morning just before the time for ‘sehar’ ends and the devout begin their fast. It resumes later in the day, an hour before ‘iftar’ when the devout break their fast.
“But, then this is pandemic year. All mosques have been shut down, there is a national lockdown in effect, all markets are shut, all food items are in limited supply and there is widespread panic and apprehension. It doesn’t feel like Ramzan at all,” said Mohammad Faisal, a resident of Kucha Pandit, Old Delhi, referring to the restrictions imposed by the government to contain the spread of Covid-19.
With Chandni Mahal, situated just a kilometre away from Jama Masjid, reporting several Covid-19 cases so far, the usual hustle bustle ahead of Ramzan is missing. “People used to stock up groceries specially for Ramzan, local shops used to start making items such as ‘Khajla, Pheni’ (snacks eaten with milk during Sehar) and the bazar would come alive. There is nothing like that this year,” said Mohammad Sirajuddin, a resident of Haveli Azam Khan area.
Chandni Mahal RWA said they were asking residents to not gather at local mosques for prayers. RWA president Anwarullah said the residents would observe fasts and offer prayers at their homes only considering the precarious situation in the area.
The central district, which includes the Walled City, has seven containment zones. Of these, five are located in Old Delhi -- Sadar Bazar, Chandni Mahal, Nabi Karim, Nawab Ganj and Bara Hindu Rao, spread over less than two square km. The other two containment zones are in Sant Nagar Burari and Oberoi Apartment in Civil Lines.
“It is not just feasting. Muslims donate generously and feed the poor daily during Ramzan. Special arrangements are made at mosques for ‘taraveeh’ and Friday prayers as the number of people coming to perform prayers almost double during this holy month. It is not just us, think about those who knew they wouldn’t have to go hungry at least for one month since they would find plenty of food and alms,” said Mohd Feroze, a resident of Matia Mahal.
Taraveeh are special prayers that are performed during Ramzan after the Isha (night) namaz. Since mosques would remain shut, Imams and the Darul-uloom, Deoband, have appealed to all the Muslims in the country to stay inside their homes and perform taraveeh and other prayers there only.
The iconic Jama Masjid also remains shut due to lockdown. Till last year, besides hundreds of people gathering at the iconic mosque for prayers, there used to be a fair-like atmosphere in its grand courtyard every evening during Ramzan with people breaking their fast with snacks and delicacies bought from the local market. Also there used to be ‘iftar dastarkhawans’ (special feasts) where people invited others to break fast with them.
“Jama Masjid is shut, so are local mosques. It is difficult to imagine Ramzan in Old Delhi without Jama Masjid,” said Naseem Ahmad, a local resident.
The Rahmatullah Hotel, another Jama Masjid area landmark, where hundreds of the poor are fed daily by the patrons and the hotel owners, is locked. Fazalur Rahman, the hotel owner, said, “This shop was established in 1948, and its has never shut down since. However, with the lockdown in place, this restaurant would also remain closed.” The hotel is known for its sheermal, paranthas and kebabs, besides meals that comes as cheap as Rs50.
Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, the Shahi Imam of the Fatehpuri Masjid, said he has appealed to the people to stay inside their houses and offer their prayers. He also said that if for any reason, someone is not being able to keep the fast, he can observe it later during anytime of the year.
“Those with medical or any other condition are allowed to skip fast during Ramzan and keep it when they attain health. We have appealed to the people that they should listen to what doctors and experts have advised,” he said.
The Mufti also urged the authorities to make arrangements so that the markets, in some areas, can be opened in the morning at 3am and also in the evening for sometime so that the people can buy essential commodities, while maintaining social distancing.
Sanjay Bhargava, president, Chandni Chowk Traders Association, said the area got additional footfall during Ramzan which meant extra business for the traders. “This would be a double whammy for the traders whose businesses are already shut from the last one month,” said Bhargav.
Hazrat Nizamuddin, another centre of activity during Ramzan, also shows no signs of the usual hubbub. The Dargah has been shut down and the entire area has remained secluded ever since hundreds stuck inside the Alami Markaz, the headquarters of the Tablighi Jamaat, were evacuated with symptoms of Covid-19.
Farid Nizami, caretaker of the Hazrat Nizmauddin Dargah, said the dargah was never shut down in its over 700 years of history. He also said that it would be the first Ramzan when there would be no arrangements for iftar, taraveeh at the adjacent Jamaat Khana Masjid.
“During Ramzan, it used to be a different environment altogether. The place is completely crowded with people and also visitors who come to offer namaz. At any given time during the holy month, around 2,500 people offered prayers here. But it is for the first time in 700 years that we had to shut down the dargah,” the dargah caretaker said.
“We have already told local residents and devotees to stay indoors and offer namaz. For Eid festivities, a decision will be taken only a week before the festival,” Nizami said.
It is also a difficult time particularly for those living inside the containment zones. Mussarat Begum, 50, who lives with her son in Nizamuddin area said at least the authorities should have allowed access to ATMs and banks so that people could withdraw money for essential things. “I had some cash but it is finishing fast. Not many local shopkeepers and vendors accept e-payments. We need to shop daily for sehar and iftar, how are we going to do it now,” she said.
Another resident, Mehrunissa Khan, a health worker, said the supplies are hit and many daily use items are not available. “Many food and other items that we associate with Ramzan are not there this time,” she said.