All religious communities in South Yorkshire have made sacrifices during Covid-19 by closing their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques. They have done so willingly to safeguard the NHS and all who work in it, to reduce the spread of the virus and to save lives.
Some major festivals and commemorations have happened during this time – Passover, Easter and Ramadan.
During Ramadan, imams and mosque leaders have encouraged the faithful to:
- Observe Ramadan by fasting at home
- Pray Tarawih prayers, as well as the five daily prayers, at home
- Stay at home and not distribute food or have Iftar gatherings
- Join in broadcast prayer from home
In normal times the faithful would want to spend more time in the last ten days of Ramadan at the mosque.
But it is important that all that we have gained during this time should not be lost in these final days.
My understanding, which is in line with the teaching of scholars, and is being recommended in other towns and cities, is that if one person – a member of the Masjid spiritual team, for example – does Itikaaf in the mosque, that individual will be doing so on behalf of all. In this way, there is no risk of spreading the virus further which could happen with a gathering of two or more people.
No doubt another person would need to be at the mosque for reasons of safety and security – though hand-washing and social distancing should be observed.
If mosques can do this, Itikaaf will be observed by all through the undertaking of one person and the health and well-being of all communities will continue to be protected.
Eventually, we will be able to return to our places of worship to give thanks to God – but not yet.
Dr Alan Billings, Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire