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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.
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