Eid Ul Fitr: Photo Essay

Celebrating Eid under lockdown: A muted affair

By Shiraaz Mohamed 25 May 2020

Noor Mashoba lays his prayer mat on the ground in Soweto, Johannesburg before Eid prayers on 25 May 2020. Mashoba, with a few of his friends, performed their Eid prayer at home, metres from a mosque closed for the lockdown. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

Eid ul Fitr marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. It is a day of celebration by Muslims around the world. A day where Eid prayers are held in large numbers, where charity is bestowed on the poor. Festive meals, the giving of gifts and social gatherings are part of the festivities of the day. This year’s celebrations on Monday 25 May were more muted thanks to Covid-19 and Level 4 lockdown regulations.

As South Africa entered the 59th day of its national lockdown, Muslims were forced to celebrate their Eid under lockdown regulations. This meant they were prohibited from gathering for early morning Eid prayers and other customary celebration rituals.

Akeel Gaffoor, left, delivers the Eid sermon to his family and staff members in his house in Lenasia. Gaffoor held the Eid prayer in his house as South Africa entered its 59th day of the national lockdown. Muslims were forced to celebrate their Eid under regulations which prohibited them from performing their early-morning Eid prayers in large groups. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

But determined to proceed with celebrations, family members held Eid prayers in their homes while others formed small groups and congregated at a designated house to fulfil their religious obligation.

A group of men is seen during the Eid prayer in a courtyard of a house in Soweto, Johannesburg, 25 May 2020. The group performed their Eid prayer at home despite living meters away from a mosque, which was closed due to the lockdown. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

“Today was a big day for us, it’s like Christmas for the Christians. We are happy, we are joyful to have invited a few brothers to come and celebrate with us,” said Soweto resident Noor Mashoba moments after he and a few friends concluded their prayers. The group had gathered at a house close to the mosque they would normally attend but were unable to do so on Monday because of the prohibition on religious gatherings of any kind.

Abdul Rahman leads the Eid prayers in a courtyard of a house in Soweto. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

While Mashoba admitted that their gathering was not legal, he emphasised that they had adhered to safety regulations in order to stay safe from the virus.

Five-year-old Alyaanah Gaffoor has Eid breakfast with her family in Lenasia. Muslims were forced to celebrate Eid under lockdown regulations, which included a ban on mass prayers and social gatherings. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

“Eid this year has been difficult, different from our normal Eids. We come from a really huge family. Usually, our breakfast would consist of 40 to 50 people. Unfortunately this year, it’s different, it’s just my immediate family, my brother and sisters. It’s difficult not seeing your uncles, aunts, family and friends. But we hope, God willing, next year we can have Eid as normal again,” said Mahdiyyah Gaffoor from her home in Lenasia.

Akeel Gaffoor at prayer with his family and staff members in his house in Lenasia. Gaffoor held the Eid prayer in his house as South Africa entered its 59th day of the national lockdown. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

Another custom that was affected was the visiting of graveyards. Muslims usually congregate at burial sites on Eid to pray for their lost loved ones. 

Avalon cemetery situated on the border of Soweto and Lenasia stood desolate except for a roadside flower seller, a few beggars and gravesite cleaners. 

Grave site cleaner Abdool (surname unknown) in the deserted Avalon Cemetery, Johannesburg. A distressed Abdool usually makes money by cleaning gravesites on the day of Eid. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

“It is Eid, it is lockdown, but there is no money. People (the gravesite cleaners) are suffering here in the cemetery,” said Abdool, a Soweto resident who makes his money from cleaning gravesites on the day of Eid and only offered his first name.

Safik Lulat takes a selfie outside his house on Eid morning in Lenasia. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

“We are very sad today because we lost a daughter five years ago and we cannot visit her grave because of the lockdown rules and regulations. So that for me is what makes my heart sore,” said Rafiek Lunat, an Eldorado Park resident, describing the effect the lockdown has had on their Eid celebration and the fact that he could not visit his daughter’s gravesite.

The Lunat family outside their Eldorado Park, Johannesburg home on the morning of Eid. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

South African Muslims were not the only ones restricted in their celebrations on Monday. Several countries around the world have lockdowns in place meaning Muslims have had to find creative ways to commemorate the day.

Beggars go from door to door collecting food and money from residents on Eid morning in Lenasia, Johannesburg. Charity forma a large part of Eid celebrations. (Photo: Daily Maverick / Shiraaz Mohamed)

DM

Gallery

Comments - share your knowledge and experience

Please note you must be a Maverick Insider to comment. Sign up here or if you are already an Insider.

ANALYSIS

Schools – the hardest governance decision of them all

By Stephen Grootes