Coronavirus pandemic

S'pore Mufti urges Muslims to adjust, adapt and be nimble

He pays tribute to healthcare workers in Hari Raya sermon amid muted celebrations

Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad (centre), flanked by Muis chief executive Esa Masood (right) and SMCCI deputy president Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, distributing special meals and festive goodies to migrant workers at Woodlands Dormitory to mark H
Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad (centre), flanked by Muis chief executive Esa Masood (right) and SMCCI deputy president Abu Bakar Mohd Nor, distributing special meals and festive goodies to migrant workers at Woodlands Dormitory to mark Hari Raya yesterday. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

The coronavirus cast its long shadow over Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations this year, with the traditional recitation of prayers, or takbir, confined to homes and large gatherings disallowed.

It was an inconvenience that Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir put front and centre in his sermon for the occasion yesterday, when he urged Muslims to adapt to the changed circumstances and maintain a positive mindset.

His message, which also paid tribute to healthcare workers, was broadcast on radio and online channels such as Salam SG TV, but not on free-to-air television, where religious content is not allowed.

"Our ability to adjust and adapt, to be nimble and flexible, is critical to our survival and success... The more we are prepared to accept change and make adjustments, the better the likelihood of us continuing our religious practices," Dr Nazirudin said.

Hari Raya Aidilfitri marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. It is an occasion to celebrate spiritual victory, an opportunity for families to reunite and a time for feasting. Much of this was muted this year, with the 70 mosques closed and the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) reminding people days ago they should not pay visits or gather in person.

Dr Nazirudin said the community has already responded positively to the constraints imposed by the coronavirus by understanding the reasons that mosques had to be temporarily shuttered.

"(When) some said we should only fear God, not the virus, our community rejected such ideas as a distortion of our faith because it categorically says no to anything that causes danger and harm to human lives," he said.

"Our faith in Allah means we are responsible human beings."

In dormitories, migrant workers, who have been disproportionately hit by the coronavirus, were also missing their families.

Muslim workers prayed and watched the Mufti's Hari Raya sermon in their rooms. And while in previous years they might have flocked to a mosque for a celebratory spread, some 200,000 of them enjoyed a special catered lunch in their dorms instead.

In an initiative organised by the inter-agency task force supporting dorms and foreign workers, Muis and the Singapore Malay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SMCCI), mutton briyani, chicken chop rice and cookies were sent to dorms. Some workers were in traditional clothing as they stood in line for the treat.

Muis chief executive Esa Masood said the workers have had a challenging Ramadan in the dorms.

"But I think they have really been doing their best as part of our national effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19," he said.

Housewife Juriah Bujang, 42, said the unique circumstances of this year's celebration made it "the most memorable" for her family.

"It is a little heart-wrenching because we don't get to seek forgiveness from our families like the way we are used to, kiss our elderly's hands and hug them with love, and give out green packets to the little ones," she said.

"But my family and I are thankful that we are in the pink of health. We will catch up with the rest of our family and friends when this pandemic is over."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore Mufti urges Muslims to adjust, adapt and be nimble'. Subscribe