BOSTON (RNS) — With most mosques across the country still closed due to the coronavirus, Muslim communities are finding creative ways to celebrate this weekend’s Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, while abiding by social distancing guidelines.
In Michigan, where a popular Ramadan lights competition will end just before Eid, Muslims have organized a televised Eid service and celebration that they expect tens of thousands to tune in for. The celebratory programming, set to air Sunday morning (May 24) on local cable news and stream on social media, will begin with a live Eid sermon by the Muslim Unity Center’s Imam Mohamed Almasmari.
“The televised Eid program is a wonderful way to bring our communities together in spirit when we cannot be together in person,” said Catherine Ziyad, from the Muslim Center of Detroit, who helped produce the program. “It gives us a chance to celebrate our diversity and recognize the generous charitable activities that our community has been engaged in over the past month.”
In addition to performances by musicians and comedians, a number of Sunni and Shiite imams from mosques across the state will also speak, as will elected officials and other community leaders, thanking Michigan Muslims’ who have donated and delivered over 50 tons of food.
In Michigan and around the country, Muslims are organizing drive-by car parades, virtual Zoom parties and other events, continuing the sense of virtual community cultivated over the past month with remote iftar dinners, lecture livestreams and online taraweeh prayers.
The international Ismaili Muslim community’s new 24/7 online streaming channel, launched last month to connect members during the pandemic, will celebrate with a two-day concert by Ismaili musicians. Remote Ramadan, a digital project formed to connect Muslims spiritually and socially during the month, is capping off the season with an Eid Bazaar held over Zoom, which will let Muslims share reflections and play online games together. Groups of young Muslims have arranged open virtual Eid meetups in their time zones. And families, spread out across the globe, have arranged their own FaceTime and Zoom calls.
The Fiqh Council of North America has encouraged Muslims to perform the Eid prayers in their homes alone or with their own families. In a statement prepared by Imam Yasir Qadhi, the group encouraged mosques to broadcast Eid sermons, generally considered not obligatory, and advised families to follow the usual prophetic traditions of Eid: bathing, eating breakfast, wearing one’s best clothing and reciting the takbir in God’s praise.
The Qalam Foundation in Texas urged worshippers to do the same.
“We all have cherished memories of past days of Eid,” the group’s founder, Sheikh AbdulNasir Jangda, wrote. “However, we face the prospect of an Eid that is difficult and challenging. Similar to our mindset in Ramadan, we can and should find a way to have a joyous and meaningful Eid.”
But many of the traditional Eid experiences will be lost: worshippers praying in densely packed rows behind the imam, hugging friends and strangers alike as they exit the mosque, handing out candy and dollar bills to children, losing yet another pair of shoes to the tangled pile outside the prayer hall.
Still, mosques and other networks are trying their best to re-create the holiday’s joyful magic and community spirit.
In Illinois, the Zakat Foundation of America is hosting “Eid-in-Place,” a virtual Eid show for families that will feature New York University’s Imam Khalid Latif and a lineup of entertainers including Brother Ali, Zainab Johnson and Amir Sulaiman. The Mosque Foundation will hold a drive-by greeting and gift exchange in the mosque parking lot on Sunday.
In Massachusetts, places of worship have been permitted to reopen beginning this week, following social distancing protocols and capping attendance to 40% of the building’s permitted occupancy level. But the Islamic Society of Boston’s two mosques, which typically draw 5,000 people for the holiday, will remain closed for all of May, including Eid.
Instead, they will stream a virtual Eid sermon and communal takbir, followed by Eid car parades beginning in the mosque parking lots.
“We ask God to grant us all the reward, however, as he’s all-knowing of your intention and what’s in your hearts of love for his rites of worship,” mosque leaders said in a message to congregants.
Even holding small public Eid prayers in mosques would be detrimental, they explained: “Considering the Muslim population and the current state of emotions, restricting attendees from entering the masjid as and when they wish for Eid salat may very possibly lead to conflict.”
Most other area mosques also plan to avoid public prayers. But nearby, at the Islamic Center of Burlington, the mosque has opened for adult men to perform the five daily prayers, Friday prayers and Eid prayer. Masks will be required, 6-foot social distancing will be maintained and 135 worshippers will be allowed in at a time. At the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England, leaders also plan to have limited public Eid prayers.
On Friday evening in Falls Church, Virginia, the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center will arrange contact-free food distribution for 1,000 families in need with a special Eid drive-thru.
In Washington, the Muslim Association of Puget Sound will lead Eid prayers virtually before hosting a drive-thru celebration. Nearby, the Somali Family Safety Task Force will also arrange a drive-thru celebration with food, gifts and candy for families to pick up.
In Orlando, volunteers have organized a car decorating contest during local Muslims’ car parade.
“We want you all to get creative,” organizers said. “Get the kids involved, really show them that even though we won’t be able to congregate we can still have fun in other ways.”
In Connecticut, where a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people exempts religious services, Muslim leaders are nonetheless urging mosques to stay closed.
“Even though new cases of the virus are on a decline, the Muslims of the state do not wish to cause a spike in infection rates by large-scale communal gatherings,” said Tark Aouadi, executive director of CAIR-Connecticut. “As responsible citizens we want to encourage community members to do their part in helping to stop the spread of the coronavirus by practicing social distancing measures and this includes not gathering in large numbers at the mosque, community centers and public parks for Eid this year.”