With the holy month of Ramadan less than a month away and a possible third wave of COVID-19 around the corner, concern has once again been raised over religious gatherings turning into “super spreader events”. How masajid will be handling taraweeg prayers in particular has been placed under the spotlight, which traditionally sees masajid packed to capacity.
South African Muslims this year experience Ramadaan under unprecedent circumstances and have to adapt to government regulations. The Health ministry has repeatedly stressed that these protocols have been implemented to prevent the virus from spreading.
Currently, under level 1 of lockdown, 100 people are allowed at indoor venues and 250 outdoors where social distancing can be maintained, or 50 percent of a venue’s capacity.
Speaking to VOC this week, the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC)’s second deputy president Shaykh Riyaad Fataar stated that many Muslims are eager to participate in masjid activities. He expressed confidence that muslims already know how to manage measures such as mask wearing, social distancing and sanitizing:
“It has been an overwhelming majority of the community that is actually anxiously waiting for taraweeg to be performed in the masjid. I think the important thing that one must learn from what we have seen last year with covid-19 and the protocols that have been in place in many of masajid- is that we now sit with experience and now that we’ve learnt on how to handle and deal with things.”
Fataar emphasised that masajid now sees regular mask wearing, social distancing, open windows, sanitizing and screening tools as well as registration.
“These are the factors that have been told to us that is important in terms of reducing the number or bending that curve further to becoming straight and hopefully disappear. So, yes, the Muslim Judicial Council has issued that. And like we always do, we consult with everybody. But in the meantime, I must also say that many masjid committees and the imams have sat down and put temporary plans in place on how to handle taraweeg if we were to get there. Because we cannot have at the last minute where it goes a certain direction and that we don’t know how to handle it, that has been a good sign.”
The Kensington masjid’s Dawood Essack reiterated Shaykh Fataar’s reminder that there are already pre-requisites set out by government and that masjid should be familiar on how to handle protocols. The Kensington masjid currently: has a register whereby any influx is carried over to the next day/week, temperatures get taken at the masjid’s entrance, mask wearing is encouraged and social distance maintained. Essack said a meeting will take place to find out how current protocols can be amended to accommodate taraweeg:
“We’ll still have people to preregister, but it will give people a permanent number- like one to 100. Depending on the number of people that registered, there’ll be a rotational basis so that there’s a fairness and it’s equitable to everyone. So, if only 200 people registered, then you’ll be coming into the majority of the alternate night. You’ll get your number and we’ll have that register there.”
The MJC hasn’t put up updated guidelines because they are “waiting to see first what is going to happen as we come closer to the holy month of Ramadan.”
“There is not like people are going to be in the hundreds and thousands at the Masjid and all standing against one another. And that is that is why I said we now have an experienced community and experienced imams.”
“People are saying that there’s a crowd and they’re worried about that. This is not the same crowd of last year prior to covid-19 or in 2020. We now have an experience, a learned crowd, a learned committee as well as imamat that knows what is the protocols that should be put in place in order to drastically affect the infection rate. Today and this year, you are going to see a totally different thing. And In Sha Allah, we’re hoping that we will get there and we will not have this third way spike,” said Shaykh Fataar.
Essack shared the sentiment and expressed confidence in the public, noting a successful few months:
“What we’ve done is there’s already been a condition of the minds of people that they know this is how it works. It’s not something new that we’re going to be presenting except instead of Jumu’ah, it will now be taraweeg. The mind of the people have been conditioned. This is how it works. We’ve been doing it for months on the block and we’ve had that buy in from the community. No objections.”
“Everyone understands it’s not my turn now. Sometimes people forget to register, then they will phone us. And if we have a cancellation, we will put them in. We try to be as accommodating as we possibly can. But within the confines of the regulations and for us, we almost see this as getting to be a breeze for us because of the months of precondition of the system that we’ve already implemented.”
Fataar also noted that the MJC will be meeting with engaging and holding meetings with masajid committees to assist with how to deal with those who aren’t in favour of complying:
“We are not going to be oblivious to the fact that there is a group of people with a different view and a different understanding of covid-19pandemic. The government has to live with it. And so, we have to live with it also, that people feel that they have a different view as far as the existence of covid-19 is concerned. We must all put our hands together to make to dua to Allah swt, that we do not get to that stage of where we have to have taraweeg at home again and the numbers increase,” he said.
Essack said that another concern is the length of time people need to be inside a confined space, adding that deliberations will determine whether taraweeg will last the traditional duration of after magrieb to eshaai.
“(It will) normally will take you from Eshaai in the end of winter to about roughly hour, hour and a half. We may probably need to also look at the eight rakaats taraweeg which is also the sunnah of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH).”
“We’re looking at how do we maintain the safety protocols? How do we continue with taraweeg as well as sort of limit the time that people will be inside the mosque as well?” he said.