For the first time ever, Britain’s 2.6 million Muslims will observe Eid al-Fitr in lockdown, under strict conditions imposed in response to Covid-19.
Eid al- Fitr is a time for ultimate jubilation among the Muslims across the world. After a month of observing Ramadan, of praying and self-restrain, the British Muslims look forward to it, with communal prayers in mosques, visits to friends and family and celebrating together with food, presents and laughter.
But 2020 is not a normal year. This country’s Muslim community has spent the whole of Ramadan in isolation to maintain social distance, without congregating at mosques- that have now been closed for 9 weeks. Many have also not met their elderly family members for at least a month, if not more. Frontline staff who have spent days treating coronavirus patients without food and water during the day, broke their fast much later than usual, due to their unusual work pressure. But they have all been looking forward to this Eid celebration virtually or otherwise with immediate family.
The Muslim Council of Britain has reportedly urged people to celebrate Eid virtually this year, due to the existing social-distancing measures. Guidelines for those celebrating have been also drawn up by the council. The community is disappointed, but they are all ready to celebrate it in a unique way, many are even planning zoom parties.
Eid as magical as Christmas
In her early 30s, Halima Khatun, one of the seven siblings, lives in Manchester. She is an author and a blogger at Halimabobs.com. Halima told Asian Voice, how she is planning to celebrate this Eid with her daughter Hannah, newborn son Ishaaq and husband Mushfiqur. “This Eid will be bitter sweet as I’ve just had a new baby (6 weeks) and I have a 2-year-old. We are self-shielding. So, to make up for the lack of visitors on Eid, I’m making the day extra special for my daughter.
“I’m going to have an Eid party for the four of us with Eid-specific decorations, a tepee and lots of video calls. Weather depending, we’ll also do a socially distant gathering at my mum’s, as it’s safer to be in open air than in an enclosed space. My parents may join the social distancing party as we have to be careful.
“From a Bengali perspective it makes a change as Eid is usually about adults making lots of samosas and there isn’t much for the kids to do. This is the first time I’m having a party like this, so I’m hoping she’ll remember it.”
When asked what she is cooking on this Eid, she added, “With a newborn, it won’t be crazy ambitious! But there’ll be samosas or spring rolls, as she loves them. Moreover, as Hannah has a dairy allergy, I’ll be getting dairy free cakes and I’m planning to make a pulao and the traditional aloo bora/dal bora,” she added.
“The big difference is that we’ll be decorating the house the night before for her and she’ll have presents in a sack, which is something we hadn’t done before. Usually Eid is just lots of food, wear a nice outfit and not much else. I want Hannah to realise that Eid is as magic as Christmas, maybe even more so!”
Channel 4’s ‘Ramadan in Lockdown’
34 year old Dr Mohammed Abbas Khaki is appearing in ‘Ramadan in Lockdown’, a 5-part series on Channel 4, starting from Monday 18 May at 11:05pm and culminating in an Eid special to air at 11.20pm on Saturday 23rd May (all episodes can be streamed on All 4). Channel 4 has talked to a range of British Muslims from across the country and followed them throughout Ramadan showing how the Muslim community coped with this unique and poignant moment in history, whilst observing their holiest month.
Channel 4 Head of Specialist Factual, Fatima Salaria said, “This is an exceptional time for us all, bringing a range of challenges to every aspect of society.”
Dr Khaki doesn’t believe in making life easy for himself. Having spent past Ramadans in places like Bangladesh helping the Rohingya. This Ramadan he was meant to be in South Africa volunteering at an AIDS clinic - but Covid-19 changed everything. Now, alongside his usual GP work, he has felt compelled to volunteer as a doctor in A&E at his local Hospital to battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking to Asian Voice, he said, “Ramadan was a much harder challenge this year with Covid19. Instead of taking time off for self-reflection and to enjoy the benefits of this month, I was working harder than I ever have. My shifts were longer, and I had to work extra days to cover colleagues who were sick, self-isolating or shielding due to chronic conditions. Wearing PPE for so long whilst seeing so many patients has been exhausting but I was proud to be able to see my faith in action: Islam is a religion that preaches the importance of helping others before yourself - I was honoured that I was able to do that in this holy month.
“By the Grace of God my parents are still able to cook and look after themselves, and I am lucky to live near to them so I’ve been able to help with picking up groceries and collecting their medicines. Easily the hardest part of this has been the separation though. During these holy months we would normally have a chance to spend more time together, to eat, to laugh, to reflect and to pray together. Because of my frontline role during this crisis, we've lost that quality time together.
“Eid this year is going to be strange. Without seeing my parents, kissing their hands and hugging them, without sitting to eat and reflect with them, without their company. It just won't be the same. It will be the first one away from my parents, so we're still going to try to do some of the fun things we always do, like buying the ladies roses or a secret family Eidy, and we're still going to enjoy some good food God willing. This year it'll just have to be in separate locations, and this year I’m not going to take the day off. There's too much important work to be done in hospital so I’ll be back there for the afternoon.”
47 year old Moona Green is a teacher of mixed background, from South East London, who is also featuring in Channel 4’s ‘Ramadan in Lockdown’. Her Ramadan is ordinarily full of dividing her time between her students and her family, particularly her elderly mum, who has strong Kolkata, India connections, and lives alone here. However with Covid-19 rife in Britain she has had to make the difficult decision to socially distance from her mother this Ramadan. That means not being able to invite her over to stay or break fast, or be able to tend to her in her own home or comfort her. Though Moona’s mother has been quite independent and resilient, the distance has been hard for both and Moona is finding that Ramadan without her mother by her side, where she can take care of her is really testing her resolve.
Speaking to Asian Voice, Moona along with her daughter Sophia, who was meant to take her A-levels this year said, “Ramadan has been amazing this year. We have not been distracted with anything that is unimportant. We could focus on basic and simple things and were grateful for that. But Eid this year is going to be strange.
“My brother has a big garden with a side entrance. And we are planning to do a social distance picnic there, keeping 2 metres away from everyone. We are going to take a dish along, sit on our picnic mats. We will pray and have some tea and food together, and see each other’s faces, keeping safe distance. We are going to take my mum to my brother’s in the back of a limousine (which has a glass partition to isolate her). Usually we have cousins and children joining us, but this year it will be so strange to not have any of them around.”