Days before the holy fasting month of Ramazan al Mubarak begins, the Islamic world is grappling with an untimely paradox of the new covid-19 pandemic: enforced separation at a time when socialising is almost sacred.
Ramazan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar is one of family and togetherness community, reflection, charity and prayer.
But with shuttered mosques, covid-19 curfews and bans on mass prayers from Senegal to Southeast Asia, some 1.8 billion Muslims are facing a Ramazan like never before.
Across the Muslim world, the pandemic has generated new levels of anxiety ahead of the holy month. Which is expected to begin from Thursday evening in some countries.
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In Algiers, Yamine Hermache, 67, usually receives relatives and neighbours at her home for tea and cold drinks during the month that Muslims fast from dusk till dawn, but this year she fears it will be different.
We may not visit them, and they will not come, she said, weeping. The covid-19 has made everyone afraid, even of distinguished guests.
In a country where mosques have been closed. Her husband Mohamed Djemoudi, 73, worries about something else.
I can’t imagine Ramazan without Taraweeh, he said, referring to additional prayers performed at mosques after iftar.
In Jordan, the government in coordination with neighbouring Arab countries, is expected to announce a fatwa outlining what Ramazan rituals will be permitted, but for millions of Muslims, it already feels so different and unhappy.
In Pakistan, ulema have agreed to follow government guidelines regarding congregational prayers and other Ramazan festivities. While mosques have been permitted to hold congregational prayers this year, the government has made it clear that any cases of flouting the guidelines or a sharp increase in covid-19 cases in the country.
From Africa to Asia, the covid-19 has cast a shadow of gloom and uncertainty.