Gambians on Saturday observed Eid-ul-Fitr without the usual congregational prayers, pomp and festivity thanks to restrictions aimed at tackling the raging coronavirus pandemic which has so far killed over 338, 000 people worldwide.Eid marks the end of one month of fasting by the country’s Muslim community and is an occasion for celebrations, religious carnivals and general revelries for worshippers around the world.
However, as the Covid-19 pandemic weighs down heavily on all aspects of life in The Gambia and beyond, there was no muezzin calling worshippers to Eid praying grounds which were deserted but for grazing ruminants.
There were no throngs of people dressed in their choicest outfits heading to congregational prayers.
Mosques had fallen largely silent throughout the month-long period of fasting as social-distancing regulations took hold.
The country’s Supreme Islamic Council had left many members of the Muslim community flummoxed by announcing late into Friday night that Eid would be on Saturday after the sighting of the moon in the provincial town of Basse, 373km east of the capital Banjul.
The SIC had initially earmarked Sunday as the official end to Ramadan 2020 which passed off without the usual congregational worship as safety regulations hold sway.
Two imams were arrested, prosecuted and found guilty of leading prayers inside mosques in open defiance against the prohibition of congregations which health officials fear could spark a local chain of coronavirus infections.
Gambians mark Eid a day after the Health ministry confirmed the country’s 25th case of the virus.
In a short Eid message on Saturday, President Adama Barrow expressed regret that this year’s end to the Ramadan coincides with the pandemic, a situation which informs the restrictive measures being instituted to ensure public safety.