The corona virus pandemic praying together and breaking the fast with loved ones, makes many people feel lonely in this holy month.
And now that Ramadan is over, Eid al-Fitr, one of the most festive holidays in Islam, will be a grim affair, the same as the previous month.
The three-day Muslim holiday celebrating to mark the end of fasting, Eid al-Fitr, or the “breaking fast festival” in Arabic, will fall on this year’s Memorial Day weekend, starting from May 24-26.
If it’s another year, this will be a time of joy and unlimited celebration through a difficult month. It will be a three-day gift-giving party and often reach for food. From visits to the homes of loved ones. From the tithing of those who are less fortunate.
But this year is different.
This is the year when the world suddenly stops, making a sacrifice of what is one of the happiest times in the Muslim calendar.
Eid al-Fitr at the US 19th epicenter: prayer and plans are canceled
In New York, the epicenter of the virus in the United States, Eid will be very isolated this year.
Mazhar Ladji, a product manager who moved to New York from India four years ago, hopes to attend dawn prayers on the first day of Eid at Washington Square Park with the Islamic Center at New York University. But the annual prayer was canceled this year because of Covid-19.
“It feels like celebrations are coming together in Washington Square Park, wearing our best clothes and greeting one another after prayers,” said Ladji, who previously also attended a post-prayer lunch with fellow Muslims. “There will be no prayer, no lunch and no hugs.”
This year, Zoom’s call will replace the outdoor prayer room for Ladji.
Ladji is not the only Muslim in New York who must change his plans.
Around this time every year, Sarah Moawad would usually pack her bags to go to Massachusetts to spend Eid with her family. This year, Moawad lives in his apartment in Harlem with his roommate, who is also a Muslim.
“My roommate and I are still trying to find ways to make Idul Fitri festive this year,” Moawad said. “Maybe a small picnic on our roof or in the park,” Moawad said.
Naoual Elidrissi, an accountant for a small food business who lives alone in Queens, plans to spend Eid the same way he spent on Ramadan: alone.
“It’s better to be safe than sorry,” said Elidrissi, who lived 10 minutes from her parents but didn’t visit them for fear of spreading the virus.
Eid al-Fitr is usually a very pleasant time for Elidrissi, who has many large families in New York City.
“Every year we dress up nine times and visit all our families in Brooklyn and Queens. Then my cousins and I go out to dance the night,” Elidrissi said. “This year, I might just be my family’s FaceTime.”
Celebrating Eid al-Fitr while fighting the virus
For Mohamed Madboly, this year is a bit more complicated.
Mohamed Madboly, who was quarantined with his parents, aunts and cousins at his home in Queens, has not been able to spend the month of Ramadan with his three nephews on Long Island as usual. Both he and his parents tested positive for the corona virus, which means that seeing his niece on FaceTime was the only choice this year.
“When I saw my youngest niece crawling for the first time on FaceTime, it really got me,” Madboly said of her eight-month-old niece, Nelly. “It makes me feel like we are in a different country when he is really only 10 minutes away.”
Madboly and her family still hope to spend Eid in the backyard of her sister on Long Island like they do every year. To do this safely, Madboly and her family members in each quarantine have taken the Covid-19 test which they hope will come back negative in time for the holidays.
We pray that all five of us will be declared negative, “Madboly said.” This will be a great time to see other family members and celebrate because we cannot sit on an iftar with this Ramadan. “
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best
For many Muslims, this year’s Eid al-Fitr is a painful reminder of happy times.
The time that was undeniably happy now feels like it’s a different part of life. It felt almost unfit to celebrate given the many lives lost due to viruses.
But even in dark times, perspective is everything.
“Yes, this is not the best case scenario, but we have to thank you,” Elidrissi said. “We’re still alive, right? At least we have it.”
“It’s sad but the crisis demands that we act responsibly … and keep hoping for a better day,” Ladji said.