Eid al-Fitr in a pandemic

/ 04:06 AM May 25, 2020

To all who profess the Muslim faith, today is Eid al-Fitr, which the national government has decreed should be observed nationwide as an official holiday.

“Eid” marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan where believers fast from food and liquids and abstain from acts of intimacy from sunrise to sundown, while engaging in acts of piety such as performing good deeds, giving alms to the poor, and devoting themselves to prayer.


This year’s observance of Ramadan and celebration of Eid al-Fitr gain added dimension because they coincide with the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19. People of all faiths and even of no faith are living through the shared experience of isolation at home and distancing from others including loved ones. It has entailed, for many, suffering and sacrifice, deprivation and depression, grief and fear.

The normal daily activities of setting off for work, earning income, seeking entertainment and leisure, and even shared worship in common rituals are now things of the past. Experts estimate the crisis may well spill over into the next year. In many ways, it’s as if the entire human race has been forced into an extended observance of Ramadan.


Which is why the observance of Eid al-Fitr this year brings with it an ironic edge. Muslims will be “breaking the fast” imposed throughout the Holy Month. But for many people, including poor Filipinos who have lost their sources of income, the fast continues, the deprivation deepens.

Muslim religious scholars teach that the observance of Ramadan goes well beyond fasting and deprivation. The devotion is meant to deepen the faith of believers who, having known hunger for 12 hours each day for a month, know literally in their guts what it means to suffer and sacrifice.

For Filipino Muslims, the observance of Eid al-Fitr also brings home the special demands made on citizens who find themselves professing a minority faith, and because of that are often marginalized and discriminated against.

Samira Gutoc, a Muslim woman leader and an opposition senatorial candidate in the last elections, writes on the wider and deeper implications of Ramadan. “As I and my family join the global Muslim community in Ramadan,” she says, “I find myself reflecting even more about everyone for whom hunger, loneliness, and hardship is not a choice but a way of life. And what I have realized is that while many think Ramadan is mainly about fasting and self-denial,

Ramadan is also about community, fellowship triumphing over the world’s trials.”

There is no more urgent time to join hands with our Muslim brethren than now. Like all Filipinos, the Muslim community finds itself besieged by the threat of the coronavirus. But in addition, for many communities in Mindanao, violence and poverty remain to be challenges they must face. And for residents of Marawi,

a holy city that has come to be viewed as the spiritual capital of Islam in the country, it has also been three years (and counting) of waiting for their city to rise from the ashes of the conflict that killed hundreds and devastated their homes, places of worship, and public spaces.


Amid the quiet, because isolated, celebrations of Eid al-Fitr, Muslim leaders are raising their voices and demanding faster government action to bring Marawi back to life. Basilan congressman and deputy speaker Mujiv Hataman has called for the overhaul of Task Force Bangon Marawi, the agency tasked with

responsibility for rehabilitating and rebuilding the devastated city. “While the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic, the people of Marawi suffer twice in this crisis as they continue to be plagued by an outbreak of government delay and inefficiency,” said the congressman.

Some 25,355 families or a total of 126,775 individuals were displaced by the siege three years ago, and to this day some 17,000 remain in temporary shelters, while the rest are living with relatives or friends.

This despite the disbursement of P3.57 billion for Marawi relief, which means lack of funds should not be a reason for the delay, if not inertia, on the part of the government.

Amid the joyful observance of Eid al-Fitr even under the COVID-19 cloud, the plight of Marawi continues to loom like a dark cloud over the community of Muslim Filipinos, who wage the larger everyday battle of seeking validation and acceptance from fellow citizens of their country. Today’s national holiday to mark Eid al-Fitr should be an occasion to embrace and move that journey of solidarity forward.

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