Muslims around the world will observe the holy month of Ramadan under lockdown and tight restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralysed entire countries.
Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims, in which they fast during daylight hours, congregate for prayers and share meals as a community.
But with strict curfews and physical distancing directives enforced to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease, many of Ramadan’s rituals and traditions will be curtailed this year.
“I can’t remember anything like this happening before,” Mohd Faizal Musa, a research fellow at the National University of Malaysia’s Institute of the Malay World and Civilization (ATMA), told Al Jazeera.
“There was World War II or natural disasters, but from past literature, historical texts, and various archives, I found that Muslims still gathered during Ramadan, despite the war or disasters, and still observed their religious rituals together.
“However, we are facing a different enemy this time around. It can be merciless and invisible.”
How will fasting be different?
During the holy month, Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and break their fast after sunset with a meal called iftar.
Breaking of the fast is usually a communal affair. It is common for mosques to host large iftars, especially for the poor.
Because of the pandemic, which has spread to 185 nations, many countries this year have advised citizens to avoid large gatherings and have suhoor and iftar individually or with family at home.
In Egypt, all Ramadan activities, including group iftars and charity tables, are banned.