The Jakarta Post
While the majority of Muslims in Indonesia are waiting for a formal government announcement on the start of Ramadan, some Muslims in Maluku started fasting on Wednesday, performing their first tarawih (Ramadan night prayers) of the holy month on Tuesday.
The government is set to hold a meeting with Muslim organizations to determine the start of Ramadan on Thursday.
The fasting month started early on Wednesday in a number of villages in Maluku, including Wakal, Hila and Tengah-Tengah in Central Maluku regency, as well as Dai and some villages in Pulau Panjang district in East Seram regency.
Hundreds of villagers in Maluku flocked to local mosques to perform tarawih, despite the government’s ban on congregational prayers at mosques due to the outbreak.
Some mosques were so crowded in Wakal and Tengah-tengah that not all worshippers could be accommodated, forcing some to pray in the mosques’ courtyards.
Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) secretary-general Anwar Abbas said he was not against some communities starting the fasting month early but said they should pay attention to the safety of the people in the midst of the pandemic.
“But if the coronavirus outbreak has started in their areas, they shouldn’t gather to prevent the high possibility of being infected,” Anwar told The Jakarta Post on Wednesday.
The Religious Affairs Ministry previously issued a circular on prayer guidance during this year’s Ramadan and Idul Fitri, advising that tarawih be performed individually or in congregation with those living in their homes.
The circular also stipulates the prohibition of other mass gatherings that are traditionally held during the month, such as sahur (predawn meal) “on the road” events and calls for minimizing physical contact during zakat (alms) collection.
The country’s second-largest Islamic organization, Muhammadiyah, which has also issued a circular advising Muslims to perform tarawih and Idul Fitri prayers at home, has set the start of Ramadan for Friday.
Meanwhile, Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the country’s largest Muslim organization, has yet to stipulate the fasting schedule, as it will determine the start of Ramadan by observing the new moon on Thursday.
In Maluku, while some Muslims started fasting on Wednesday, others will start on Thursday, Friday or Monday, depending on local consensus.
In Leihitu district in Central Maluku regency, for example, Kaitetu, Seith and Negeri Lima villages will start Ramadan on Thursday, while the other eight villages will start on Friday.
In the meantime, Muslim villagers in Kabauw and Rohomoni villages in Pulau Haruku district, Central Maluku regency, will start fasting on Monday.
Maluku, which confirmed its first positive COVID-19 case on March 22, has recorded 17 cases with no fatalities as of Wednesday.