Delhi prepares for Covid-safe Eid-ul-Zuha festivities
With a majority of the lockdown restrictions eased in the last few weeks, several mosques across the capital—including Jama Masjid and Fatehpuri Masjid —will hold prayers for Eid-ul-Adha, the second most important Islamic festival for Muslims across the world, on Saturday.
Eid-ul-Zuha, more commonly known as Bakr-Eid, is the festival of sacrifice observed on the tenth day of the Dhu al-Hijjah which is the twelfth month of the Islamic calendar. Most Muslims sacrifice animals—cattle, goats, or sheep—and distribute the meat among the needy and their own family members on this day.
Sabiullah Khan, the public relations officer of Jama Masjid, said, “We will be following all the government guidelines for the congregation. Visitors without masks will not be allowed. They will have to carry their own prayer mats and sanitise themselves before entering the premises. The time for the congregation has also been advanced by an hour and will be held at 6.05 am to ensure there is no rush.”
Due to the Covid-19 lockdown and the subsequent closure of religious places, Muslim devotees were unable to pray in mosques on Eid-ul-Fitr in May. However, as per Unlock 1 guidelines, the Centre had allowed religious places to reopen from June 8 while maintaining social distancing norms. According to Unlock 3 guidelines, religious functions and other large congregations continue to be prohibited.
Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, the Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid, said they were grateful for the relaxation of norms. “People were not able to pray in mosques during Eid-ul-Fitr due to the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown. We have made repeated announcements that people should offer their prayers at home this time as well. However, if they want to visit the mosque, they must sanitise themselves, bring their own prayer mats and maintain social distancing norms. Those with symptoms will not be allowed. If Eidgahs could be reopened across the capital, the load on mosques would reduce substantially.”
Several mosques in pockets of Okhla, old Delhi, and north-east Delhi will also hold Eid prayers while maintaining social distancing norms. Mosque-goers see this as a ray of hope.
“Eid feels incomplete without praying at the mosque or meeting our elders. Since there is no restriction over movement like there was in May [when Eid-ul-Fitr was celebrated], we will meet our family and friends. We have not earned much in the past few months and barely have had enough to eat. But we can’t let that dampen our spirit,” said Mohammad Imran, a street-vendor near Jama Masjid, who will not be sacrificing any animal this year due to financial constraints.
On Friday afternoon, the Meena Bazaar, usually bustling with customers, wore a deserted look due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Mohammad Saood, who sells women’s apparel for a living, said that unlike previous years, there has been no business this year.
“The shops couldn’t open during Eid in May. But now that they have, we barely have any customers. We go days without selling even one salwar suit. Many businesses in the market shut down because shopkeepers could no longer afford the rent. We had two shops and ultimately had to let go of one,” said the 25-year-old. He also pointed out that the lack of livestock markets in the nearby Urdu Park has also added to the misery of shopkeepers. Saood, himself, bought one sacrificial animal this year, instead of three or four like previous years.
Mohammad Sirajuddin, who sold 34 goats last year, has only been able to sell one this year. “Generally the rates are as high as ₹70,000-₹80,000 for one goat. But I had to sell a goat for ₹42,000 this year,” he said while waiting for customers on Friday.
Many residents also expressed concerns over butchers visiting different families the same day to sacrifice the animals. “We have an arrangement with our butcher who will only come to our house this year. Besides, a substantial number of people will not be sacrificing any animal this year which means butchers may not be as busy as in previous years. It reduces the chance of infection spreading,” said Mohammad Yasir, another shopkeeper in Meena Bazaar.
Elaborating on the spirit of the festival, author Rana Safvi said that the essence of sacrifice is obedience to God. “We won’t be having any guests over because of the pandemic. Praying at the cost of everything is the supreme sacrifice this festival aims to celebrate. Prayers and obedience include more than just fasting or namaaz. It also means helping others in need and this is what we are doing this year and following the spirit of the festival.”
Sohail Hashmi, a heritage enthusiast, said, “Every year my siblings and some friends would come over for dinner. That’s not the case this year due to the pandemic. I don’t want to expose myself or them to the infection. So it will just be four of my family members and a quiet Eid.”