The Jakarta Post
The Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Muhammadiyah have advised Muslims in the country to avoid conducting Idul Fitri prayers in large congregations at mosques due to the pandemic.
Traditionally, Idul Fitri prayers, which this year are expected to be held on May 24 when Ramadan ends, are conducted in mosques and open spaces, involving hundreds to thousands of people.
With the government’s large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), which were implemented to help curb the spread of COVID-19, conducting prayers in the traditional way would pose major health risks.
The MUI issued a fatwa on the matter on Wednesday, allowing Idul Fitri prayers at home in areas where COVID-19 has spread “uncontrollably”. However, Muslims in areas where the virus is largely controlled can hold Idul Fitri prayers as normal.
"Idul Fitri prayers can be performed at home in congregations with family members or individuals, especially in areas where COVID-19 has spread uncontrollably,” MUI Fatwa Council chair Hasanuddin said in a statement on Wednesday.
It also called on Muslims, the government and the community to hold takbiran, a way to celebrate the eve of Idul Fitri, but in a less festive way. During the pandemic, takbiran, which includes takbir (recitation of God is great), is a prayer for humanity in overcoming the coronavirus.
The MUI suggested that takbiran be held at homes, mosques as led by takmir (mosque management) and on the road with limited participants, as well as aired on television, the radio and social media.
Muhammadiyah, one of the biggest Islamic organizations in the country, issued a circular on Thursday on Idul Fitri prayer guidelines during the COVID-19 pandemic.
It suggested that the prayers be performed at home to “break the chain” of COVID-19 infections and as a precautionary measure to prevent the current situation from getting worse.
"Idul Fitri prayers should be performed at home with family members in the same way as in public spaces,” Muhammadiyah chairman Haedar Nashir said.
The organization said that, according to Islamic perspective, self-protection, both body and soul, was important as Surah al-Maidah, verse 32 of the Quran, emphasized: “Whoever saves a life, it is as if they had saved mankind entirely.”
Both the MUI and Muhammadiyah said that the public Idul Fitri prayers were not obligatory, but rather sunnah (voluntary act of worship), and performing the activities at home would not reduce the religious value of them.
The eve of Idul Fitri and the day of the Muslim festivities have yet to be decided, pending an isbat (confirmation meeting) to be held by the Religious Affairs Ministry and the MUI on May 22. The meeting is to be attended by several Islamic mass organizations.
Previously, the MUI issued a fatwa on Friday prayers during the pandemic. On March 16, it said that Muslims in areas where COVID-19 had spread “uncontrollably” were “not permitted to perform the Friday prayers in those areas until the situation returns to normal”.
The Health Ministry announced 568 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the total number of infections nationwide to 16,006, with 1,043 deaths and 3,518 recoveries.
In comparison, Saudi Arabia's grand mufti, the highest religious authority in the kingdom, had said prayers during Ramadan and the subsequent Idul Fitri festival should be performed at home should the coronavirus outbreak continue, a Saudi newspaper reported as quoted by aljazeera.com.
Meanwhile, Muslim-majority Malaysia started easing its ban on mass prayers in mosques on Friday, the Malaysian government said, as it gradually relaxes curbs that have helped rein in the coronavirus, according to straitstimes.com.