COVID-19 SPECIAL

Quieter mosques during Hari Raya Haji amid Covid-19 restrictions

The usual prayer assembly at Masjid Sultan was this year split into two sessions of 50 people each.
The usual prayer assembly at Masjid Sultan was this year split into two sessions of 50 people each.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Prayers at mosques for Hari Raya Haji on Friday (July 31) were quieter due to safe distancing measures to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The usual prayer assembly at Masjid Sultan used to attract at least 5,000 worshippers, but this year it was split into two sessions of just 50 people each.

Mr Zainal Abidin, the head of secretariat at the mosque, which is one of Singapore's oldest and largest, told The Straits Times that cleaners wiped down prayer mats and public areas after each session.

Worshippers had to book a place and have their temperatures were checked before entry, he added.

While 65 mosques were open for Hari Raya Haji prayers on Friday morning, only a total of 8,750 worshippers were able to attend.

Most mosques held three sessions with no more than 50 worshippers - who had to book slots online - each time.

Worshippers, including Mr Zainal, said the prayer sessions were more muted than in previous years due to Covid-19.

Senior architectural coordinator Subhan Jabbar Shahjehan, 49, said he missed the bustling that usually comes with Hari Raya Haji, including having the family rush to the mosque and to catch up with old friends and neighbours.

Having to book spots took out some of the spontaneity, festivity and urgency of making it to the prayer sessions, added Mr Subhan, who is married with two daughters aged 16 and 17.

Some worshippers who were unable to secure a spot at a mosque conducted prayers at home.

Mr Afiq Rahman, 31, used to pray at the Darussalam mosque in Clementi near where he lives, but he stayed put this year, saying: "While I appreciate that arrangements have been made to visit the mosque today, I felt more comfortable praying at home.

 
 
 

"Besides, I think the online slots were snapped up quickly."

The mufti, Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, said in his sermon at Masjid Maarof in Jurong West on Friday morning that the Muslim community understands the spirit and wisdom behind religious practices, though Covid-19 placed limitations on Hari Raya Haji this year.

"We are also well aware that the situation today will get more challenging, as many of us will be affected financially and in terms of employment," he added.

"There will be groups of people who are in greater need of our help and support. We must continue to help one another. We must always be conscious and sensitive to the conditions of those around us.

"Those among us who are in a relatively more comfortable state should help those facing challenges in these difficult times."

 

Muslims mark Hari Raya Haji with prayers and the korban ritual, which involves slaughtering livestock and distributing the meat to the poor.

The korban did not take place here this year. Instead, the slaughter was performed in Australia, and the meat will be chilled and shipped over to be distributed to the needy.