With only a few day left for the start of Ramadhan, like many other countries in the world, Oman too is preparing for a low-key observation of the holy month, due to restrictions.
Ramadhan — which is expected to start on April 13 or 14 depending on moon sighting — is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. It is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting, prayer, reflections and community gatherings. For the second consecutive year, the holy month will be observed under strict restrictions being imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We all feel sad that we can’t pray or get together. Yet we have enough experience from the previous year when the holy month was observed under full lockdown. So we will follow the instructions given by the authorities”, said Mubarak al Wahaibi, a retired school teacher in Ruwi.
Keeping the coronavirus onslaught in mind and the protocol of observing social distancing, said the veteran teacher, “We should abstain from any kind of gatherings that will spread the pandemic further”.
According to new measures announced by the Supreme Committee, the nighttime curfew currently in place between 8 pm and 5 am will be lifted on April 8, but a ban on movement of vehicles and people will be reinstated when Ramadhan starts.
All commercial activities will also be closed during those times. Ramadhan gatherings, such as group iftars and tents, are strictly prohibited.
Taraweeh prayers, which are the additional ritual prayers performed by the faithful at night after the Isha prayer during the holy month of Ramadhan, and community iftar meals will not be allowed.
For citizens and residents, preparing for the holy month this year is not as hard as last year as they are already used to the new normal. Since many of them continue to work from home, Ramadhan traditions such as iftar and suhoor have become a family affair.
“It is not only in Oman that the time during the holy month is going to be spent indoors. The pandemic has forced many governments around the world to order restrictions on travel, gatherings and collective prayers”, said Ali al Lawati, a bank employee.
But what looks so bleak is that the virus continues to spread without any let-up, he said, adding, “We have lessons from last year when we were fully under lockdown”.
Ahmed al Yaqoobi was upset that the Ramadhan and Eid this year too will pass off under the coronavirus shade.
“We are going to be deprived of public gatherings of the month for another year. But we are happy that there is no ban on commercial activities or movement of people till 9 in the night. This provides some solace”, he said.
As the coronavirus continues to be a worldwide threat, enforcing distancing and hygiene measures is all the more crucial to avoid a second wave of infections, he added.
An Indian expatriate Mohamed Mustafa hoped that everyone in the country would adhere to the Covid-19 protocol while observing the holy month and continue to keep their guards up.
“This is the second year in a row Ramadhan comes during the pandemic. This year, we have to stay home only during the nights. I believe it has its benefits”, he said.