Residents of al-Bab city miss their mosques in Ramadan
Enab Baladi – al-Bab
The decision to close mosques and suspend Friday prayers continues after the residents marked the holy month, Ramadan, in al-Bab city of eastern Aleppo countryside. This decision came as a precautionary measure to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
These preventive measures have changed the way Muslims observe Ramadan in many Arab and Islamic countries, including Syria.
Muslims used to perform the “Taraweeh,” an additional nightly prayer performed during the month of Ramadan in mosques, and then gather in large numbers, can no longer enjoy this religious tradition as “Taraweeh” prayers were banned, and mosques were closed.
The Islamic endowments and advisory directorate of al-Bab city’s local council, in a statement issued on 15 April, suspended the performance of Friday and congregational prayers in areas of al-Bab, Baza’ah, and Qabasin till the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the validity of the closure decision, Enab Baladi monitored some people performing “Taraweeh” prayers on the first day of Ramadan in the Great Mosque yard in the city.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, the head of the endowments directorate, Mahmoud al-Naes, said that Friday prayers were held before in around 50 mosques, but today it is performed in three or four mosques only after the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.
He added that these few mosques were opened due to people’s lack of awareness or failure to recognize the seriousness of this matter.
Al-Naes confirmed that the directorate’s position on the decision to suspend prayers in mosques has not changed. He pointed out that according to the Islamic sharia law, “the judgment always adheres to the cause.” This rule justifies the banning decision of Friday and mass prayers in the light of the coronavirus’ outbreak.
Since coronavirus pandemic still exists to this day, the rule remains valid as well, according to al-Naes.
Al-Naes also believes that the suspension of Friday and mass prayers has a significant effect on people’s lives, as he said, “the holy month of Ramadan is characterized by visiting mosques, even for those not used to do so before Ramadan.”
He added, “in Ramadan people’s lifestyle changes completely; therefore, mosques are always crowded with worshipers.”
Al-Naes proceeded by saying that Ramadan is a time for spiritual reflection, and recitation of the Holy Quran, as people confine themselves at home or resort to Quran teaching circles in mosques.
Al-Naes concluded by saying the suspension of Friday Prayers and the closure of mosques had a great effect on people’s lives, indicating that preventing them from performing “Taraweeh” prayers held only in this month affected their psychological state, behavior, lifestyle and what they used to do during this month.
A heart-wrenching decision, but the residents support it
Some of the city’s residents support decisions such as this one, as Mohammed al-Karaz believes that the temporary closure of mosques is essential, taking into consideration the poor medical situation, services, and health facilities in Syria.
In an interview with Enab Baladi, al-Karaz said that the transmission of coronavirus within days from one person to 1,000 people “is frightening,” hence preventive measures are necessary, including the temporary shutdown of mosques.
However, he criticized the closure of schools and mosques only, while other facilities were left open, such as crowded street markets like “Thursday’s local market.”
According to al-Karaz, this triggered a backlash among some residents and prompted them to pray in mosques without taking into account the directions of the endowment directorate.
Al-Karaz also criticized some people’s habit in Ramadan of gathering fifteen minutes before the call for the sunset prayer to buy special Ramadan food and drinks, such as “maarouk” and “licorice and tamarind drinks,” causing “extreme” overcrowding at this time.
As for Osama al-Saqqa, a displaced from Homs and a resident of al-Bab city, the decision to close mosques is “annoying and heart-wrenching,” but also a “license from God” in the light of the pandemic.
He added residents of areas under the opposition control have no choice to stop the spread of the virus, but through suspending social gatherings and adhering to self-isolation measures in the absence of the needed means to fight the disease.
Al-Saqqa said to Enab Baladi that after nine years of revolution and the events that followed, such as displacement, violence, and destruction, Syrians regard this holy month differently.
He said that for Syrians, Ramadan is all about visiting mosques, performing Taraweeh prayers, and practicing the traditional spiritual rituals observed during Ramadan.
Such rituals include family gatherings at the same Iftar table, social meetings in the evenings with neighbors and relatives, as well as sharing and exchanging Ramadan dishes with each other.
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