When I write this column, Muslim fraternity all over the world, except a few countries, is in the midst of celebrating Eid al Adha. Unlike before the pandemic, the celebrations for the second most important festival in the Muslim calendar, are muted for a second year in a row due to the current exceptional circumstances created by the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Performed with extra prayers in the morning are how Muslims begin the celebrations. In normal circumstances, mosques are packed with worshippers, in some places outside arrangements are made, to accommodate large groups of people. The occasion has rich symbolism for Muslims, and carries many traditions with it and is marked by the sacrifice of an animal with an element of charity.
Currently, there are a number of challenges that the pandemic has forced us to confront. In the Sultanate of Oman, authorities have put in place several Covid-19 induced measures to ensure that people do not gather in groups, but celebrate the festival at their homes taking into consideration the fact that religious events have emerged as major spreaders of this devastating virus all across the world.
Any laxity or violation of the prescribed preventive measures can lead to a surge in cases. Following the Eid al Fitr festival in May, many countries in the region have reported a big rise in coronavirus cases. In the Sultanate too, there have been cases of gross negligence and violation of the precautionary measures by some people.
True, our socio-cultural life is enriched by festivals and cultural events in which we mingle with each other and celebrate together. Social distancing is antithetical to the spirit of bonhomie and the collective celebration of life.
Gatherings happen during festive seasons as people tend to get relaxed with their relatives around and do not follow safety measures. They mingle with their masks off without giving any heed to the distance suggested by health experts. They blissfully forget the fact that most people around them are vulnerable to the deadly invisible microbe.
Hardly anyone is untouched by its extraordinary transmissibility. At the moment, the situation in the Sultanate is a bit under control. The number of Covid-19 cases has declined in the last two weeks compared to the peak witnessed during the recent months with the mortality rate and hospital admission cases reaching a record high.
We can win only if we act with wisdom and a dispassionate understanding of the preventive actions. I am happy that people at large are adhering to the guidelines. All religious leaders are moving away from dogmatic positions and are providing the guidance required to regulate the modes of worship in light of the present circumstances.
The nature of the virus and the precautions required to be taken must be followed without any delinquency. Citizens and residents must not be afraid or complacent about taking vaccines as well. Stigma and dogma are impediments that need total obliteration. We simply have to live with the situation to avoid congregations and social gatherings for some time to come. It is painful, but there is hardly any alternative.
A more flexible and adaptable attitude will help us modify our social behaviour that will eventually enable us to effectively navigate through this unprecedented time of desolation!