Muslims in Seychelles to adapt Ramadan rituals to health needs of COVID-19 era
The Muslims community in Seychelles marking the Eid-ul-Fitr, a celebration that marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan last year. (Patrick Joubert)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Weekly Friday prayers during the religious period of Ramadan this year are likely to be aired either on radio or television to allow the Muslim community in Seychelles to stay connected while observing restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The vice-chairman of the National Muslim Council of Seychelles, Ibrahim Afif, told SNA on Monday that "we have asked for permission and in principle, there are no objections," for the prayers to be aired on Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).
"We shall be doing it just like the Catholic and Anglican churches have been doing. We will have our sermons broadcast for 15 minutes on Fridays at 1 p.m. on SBC," he said.
Further announcements will be made to the community later this week.
Ramadan -- a month of fasting, spiritual reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion and worship -- will start at sundown on Thursday, April 23 and end at sundown on Saturday, May 23 with Eid al-Fitr festivities.
In its guideline for safe Ramadan practices in the context of COVID-19, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended that "any decision to restrict, modify, postpone, cancel, or proceed with holding a mass gathering should be based on a standardised risk assessment exercise."
"These decisions should be part of a comprehensive approach taken by national authorities to respond to the outbreak," WHO states.
Afif said the Muslim community in Seychelles will respect all rules made by the public health commissioner.
"If he says no congregation prayers, there will be no congregation prayers. If he says no gathering of people, there shall be no gathering of people, but we shall be fasting as fasting does not require you to be meeting anybody," said Afif.
During Ramadan, believers fast from dawn to dusk each day. In the evening, after sunset, believers gather around a family or community meal -- iftar -- to break the day's fast. This year, members of the community will see a difference in the way prayers and meals are held.
Bilal Arrisol, a Muslim, told SNA that "during Ramadan, we go to the mosque to pray more frequently and more people also come to the mosque, so the situation is not really in our favour."
"On my side, I will be following Ramadan with my family, as we usually do as there is no Mosque around Anse Boileau. For the foreigners who work in Seychelles and usually go to the mosque, this will be of great disadvantage. It will be of great disadvantage to the whole community as well when it comes to Friday prayer, which usually brings most of the community together," said Arisol.
Ramadan is also a time where charity is practised by the Muslim community.
Another believer, Salman Ali Sheikh, said that a board has been set up to assist less fortunate Muslim families with basic commodities.
Wishing all Muslims a good Ramadan, he asked the community to take this time to celebrate Ramadan as it was during the time of Prophet Muhammad.
"There were no mass gathering during the time of the prophet. Each Muslim did their Ramadam - their prayers and fasting - at home," he said.