A Somber Start to Ramadan

BenarNews staff

A staff member of Indonesia’s Ministry of Religious Affairs observes the skies over Jakarta to decide the start of Ramadan, April 23, 2020. [Afriadi Hikmal/BenarNews]


Afisa Yusoh (second from right) and her friends read the Quran on the first day of Ramadan in Yala province, southern Thailand, April 24, 2020. [BenarNews]


An imam leads three employees of the National Mosque in prayers while observing social distancing caused by the COVID-19 pandemic on the opening night of Ramadan, a night when the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur normally is packed, April 23, 2020. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]


Salesmen wait for customers as they sell dates in Dhaka ahead of Ramadan, celebrated this year under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic, April 23, 2020. [Megh Monir/BenarNews]


Malaysian soldiers arrange food to be distributed on the first evening of Ramadan to a community of Rohingya living near the Kuala Lumpur Wholesale Market, April 23, 2020. [S. Mahfuz/BenarNews]


Women wait for the local government to distribute relief goods inside a Filipino Muslim community in Manila on the first full day of Ramadan, April 24, 2020. [Basilio Sepe/BenarNews]


A woman purchases food during the first day of Ramadan in Bendungan Hilir, an area in central Jakarta that usually is a hub of Ramadan food vendors, amid a partial lockdown implemented to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, April 24, 2020. [Afriadi Hikmal/BenarNews]


At 6 p.m., downtown Cotabato City in the southern Philippines is deserted on the first full day of Ramadan, April 24, 2020. [Mark Navales/BenarNews]

Muslims in South and Southeast Asia have begun observing the fasting month of Ramadan under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mosques usually packed with the faithful are empty and normally bustling Ramadan food stalls are all but deserted.

Governments and religious authorities have ordered Muslims to pray at home and avoid large groups of people to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus.

“We can turn our homes into the center of worship. We can pray together and share iftar meals with our family,” said Asrorun Ni’am Sholeh of the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI).

Yusof Majni, 29, said he felt sad when he saw a photo of a tarawih prayer at the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur on the eve of Ramadan.

“I saw a photo last night. Only four individuals performed tarawih at the mosque. Only then did I realize that this year is different. It feels different. I will remember this,” he said.


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