Millions pray for an end to pandemic as Bangladesh celebrates Eid

Muslim devotees have attended the first congregation of Eid-ul-Fitr prayer at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque, praying for an end to the coronavirus pandemic that spread across Bangladesh.

The holiday comes at the end of a difficult Ramadan that saw a spike in COVID-19 cases. Restrictions hampered the traditional morning prayer service, forcing devotees to pray while distanced from their fellows.

The first congregation at the national mosque was held at 7 am on Friday, led by Senior Pesh Imam Hafez Mufti Moulana Mizanur Rahman. The gathering prayed for those who were sick with coronavirus and for the souls who had passed due to the pandemic. They also prayed for the welfare of the country and its people, and asked Allah to protect the nation.

Prior to the services, the authorities repeatedly urged the devotees to follow the health protocol and also delivered sermons through the loudspeakers.

Muslim worshippers pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh after an Eid-ul-Fitr congregation at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka on Friday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Though the Met Office had forecast rain on Eid morning, it was clear in Dhaka on Friday.

Muslims, including the elderly and children, arrived to take part in the Eid prayer, braving the severity of coronavirus infection.

Like last year, the government has not approved prayer services at Eidgahs or open fields because of the pandemic, only allowing congregations at mosques.

The list of restrictions on prayer service is quite long due to the infectiousness and severity of the coronavirus.

Devotees have been told to complete their ritual cleaning, or Wudu, at home and wear masks to the mosque. They are required to maintain social distancing while sitting and praying and are not allowed to exchange the traditional hugs at the end of the service, and are even forbidden from shaking hands. 

People began to gather for the first prayer service at Baitul Mukarram around 6:30 am and long lines soon formed.

Though the government had advised against bringing children or the elderly to the service, many people still brought kids. Some elders were also seen among the crowd.

Most devotees followed the health protocols as best they could in the packed mosque.

Devotees form long queues in front of the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka to attend Eid-ul-Fitr congregations on Friday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

Law enforcers, including the Rapid Action Battalion and police in plain clothes, ensured the security in the vicinity of Baitul Mukarram.

Everyone wore a mask while entering the mosque, but some were seen to take theirs off once the service ended.

Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Fazle Noor Taposh was among the devotees who took part in the first congregation.

Following the prayer, Taposh presented his Eid greetings to all. While speaking to the media, the mayor urged those who left Dhaka to celebrate Eid not to return until the lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The entire neighbourhood was under security surveillance, said OC Abu Bakar Siddique of Paltan Police Station.

Another four Eid prayer congregations will be held at the national mosque, said the Islamic Foundation.

Muslims across Dhaka were also taking part in prayer service at their local mosques.

The largest Eid congregation in the city is usually held at the National Eidgah premises. The president, members of the cabinet, members of parliament, politicians, diplomats and people from all castes and walks of life usually come together to take part in the morning prayer service. But this year, like the last, the event has been suspended because of the pandemic.

Muslim worshippers pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic in Bangladesh after an Eid-ul-Fitr congregation at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque in Dhaka on Friday. Photo: Asif Mahmud Ove

The largest Eid prayer service in the country is usually held at Kishoreganj’s Sholakia, but the gathering cannot take place this year due to the restriction on congregations in open fields.

This year, like the one before, Bangladesh was in lockdown for all of Ramadan. The government had even instructed people to stay near their places of employment rather than go home to see their families on Eid.

On Thursday, the day before Eid, the coronavirus took 31 lives in Bangladesh, raising the total death toll to 12,076. The caseload stood at 778,687 on Thursday, according to government data.