Eid Al Fitr 2021 would be the third Eid to be celebrated amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Islamic festival comes even as many countries around the world, especially those in the Indian subcontinent, grapple with a deadly second wave of the coronavirus.
In the UAE, however, the faithful have much to celebrate. Even though the third socially distanced Eid will see Muslims masked up and avoid gatherings, this Eid Al Fitr is remarkably different from the last two marked amid the pandemic.
As a Dubai resident, Zafar Mahmood, sums up: "When our offices went online in April 2020 and children started learning via distance education, we thought it would be for a couple of weeks.
"Then we started thinking that things would be back to normal by the time the holy month of Ramadan 2020 started. When that did not happen, we thought it would all be fine by Eid Al Fitr that year.
"Since then, two Eids have passed and we are about to celebrate our third amid the pandemic."
He added that the UAE residents have much to be thankful about. "There are no movement restrictions now, and more importantly, mosques are open for the Eid prayers."
Here is how the UAE spent the last two Eids; and how it is different this time around:
Eid Al Fitr 2020
Celebrations of the festival were largely confined to homes for Eid Al Fitr that was marked on May 24, 2020.
Muslims performed the Eid prayer at home, as mosques across the country remained closed as a Covid safety measure.
#StayHome orders were still in place, with movement restrictions in place from 8pm to 6am.
Shopping centres and malls were only partially open, with timings from 9am to 7pm. Cafes and restaurants operated at a maximum capacity of 30 per cent.
Residents were asked to step out of their homes only when absolutely necessary.
Eid Al Adha 2020
Celebrated on July 1, 2020, the festival was again largely confined to homes. Even though mosques had reopened by Eid, worshippers were asked to offer the Eid prayers at home so as to avoid large gatherings. It saw family heads lead the prayer at home, with the Takbeer (religious chants) broadcast via mosque speakers. Movement restrictions were lifted and malls and other centres remained open, but residents were encouraged to stay at home.
Eid Al Fitr 2021: What's different
The biggest change this Eid would be the fact that Muslims can offer the special Eid prayers at mosques and open-air spaces called musallahs. Strict social distancing guidelines have been laid out, but this year, worshippers can offer the prayer in congregation. The prayer, including the sermon, will be capped at 15 minutes. Mosques will open 15 minutes before the prayer and closed soon after.
This year, too, Muslims have been asked to avoid gatherings and family visits. Celebrations are to be limited to members of the same family living in the same household.
Here is wishing you a safe and happy Eid. Eid Al Fitr Mubarak!