From cancelled Iftar feasts to suspended mosque prayers in the provinces with 50 COVID-19 infections or more, almost all Muslims across Thailand are bracing for a bleak fasting month of Ramadan, as the threat of the pandemic lingers.
Restrictions were announced by the Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand on April 12th, 2021, one day before the start of Ramadan this year.
Ramadan is a period for both self-reflection and socializing. Believers fast from dawn to dusk and then gather around, as a family or as a community, to feast each evening of Islam’s holiest month, which ends with the Eid al-Fitr festival.
This year, as last year, however, the spreading novel coronavirus still threatens to affect Ramadan, with restrictive measures in place across the country.
More dispiriting for many devout Muslims is that congregational worship, including Taraweeh night prayer, is prohibited across the country, with many mosques closed in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
This is especially true of the last 10 nights of Ramadan, when many believers would go to Iʿtikāf, which is the Islamic practice of staying in a mosque and devoting oneself to good deeds.
Santi Suasaming, a scholar of the Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand, said “Ramadan is the month for Muslims to concentrate on their good deeds and this is a good chance to do that. Every entertainment place is closed and all entertainment activities are cancelled. All we can do now is stay home. So, why don’t we take this chance to pray, recite the Quran or do good deeds for Allah at home. Not being able to go to the mosque doesn’t mean that we cannot pray.”
Sampan Chuensukjit, a Muslim resident of the Charoenkrung neighborhood, said “Ramadan is also known as ‘The month of sacrifice’, so all Muslims need to sacrifice their time, which they use to engage in many activities together at mosque during Ramadan and now they should do all those activities on their own. This sacrifice will help all Muslims overcome the pandemic together.”
“This means that, even though we cannot pray together, we still have to do something together, which is to self-isolate in order to help stop the pandemic.” Sampan added.
He also believes that to follow the measures from the Sheikhul Islam Office of Thailand and the government doesn’t just protect people from infection with COVID-19, but also helps relieve pressure on medical staff.
As lonely as it might sound, it is a sacrifice worth making, hopefully to help contain the latest wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in Thailand.
by Kitipat Chuensukjit