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Jakarta Post

Indonesian Muslims hold congregational Ramadan prayers despite COVID-19 warnings

  • Moch. Fiqih Prawira Adjie

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sun, April 26, 2020   /   03:23 pm
Indonesian Muslims hold congregational Ramadan prayers despite COVID-19 warnings An Indonesian police officer sprays disinfectant at the Baiturrahman grand mosque in Banda Aceh on March 20, 2020. (Photo by CHAIDEER MAHYUDDIN / AFP) (AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Muslims across Indonesia have continued to perform congregational tarawih (evening Ramadan prayer) in mosques during the first few days of the fasting month, despite warnings from the government and religious groups that such gatherings could increase the likelihood of COVID-19 transmission.

Novi, a 20-year-old resident of Metro, Lampung, said she had participated in a congregational tarawih at a mosque situated in Banjarsari subdistrict of North Metro on Thursday night, the eve of the first day of Ramadan.

She said that while there were significantly fewer people in the mosque, filling only four rows of the mosque instead of packing it as usual, she was nevertheless excited to participate in the Ramadan tradition.

“[I was] so excited and grateful to still be able to experience tarawih in a congregation, because not all mosques in my area are still holding them,” she told The Jakarta Post on Friday. 

She said she was not afraid to take part in the congregational prayer as her area had not recorded any COVID-19 cases. 

“The mosque required all participants to wear masks," she said. "It also provided hand sanitizer and soap to maintain hygiene.” 

Read also: Aceh Ulema Council to allow congregational prayers during Ramadan

In Bogor, West Java, 26-year-old Firda participated in a tarawih at a mosque near her house in Bojong Gede district at the urging of her mother, despite her own misgivings.

“The mosque was less crowded than usual, even though there were still a considerable amount of people participating,” she told the Post on Friday. She added that several congregants disregarded the mosque's guidelines on physical distancing. 

“After tarawih, the women still shook hands with each other, even though it has been advised not to make physical contact.”

Bogor regency’s COVID-19 task force had recorded 99 positive cases as of Friday, with hundreds more being observed for the disease.

Agil, a 24-year-old Jakarta resident, told the Post that a mosque near his house in Kebon Baru subdistrict of South Jakarta held a congregational tarawih on Thursday in secret despite the city administration's large-scale social restrictions, which include the closure of houses of worship.

“Around 20 people, including four children, took part in the tarawih, but the lights and mosque speakers were turned off,” Agil said. “When they were done, the people took turns to come out of the mosque one by one.”

As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases continues to rise, Nadhlatul Ulama and Muhammadiyah -- the nation’s two largest Islamic mass organizations -- have issued fatwas advising Muslims against performing mass prayers during the holy month, including congregational tarawih.

Similarly, the Religious Affairs Ministry instructed Indonesian Muslims to conduct prayers at home during Ramadan in its prayer and worship guidelines issued to “protect Muslims in Indonesia from the risk of contracting the disease”.