Muslims in America, as in many parts of the world, welcome Ramadan which arrives on April 12. Although still suffering from the pandemic, which forced mosques to implement many restrictions, Muslims are optimistic and ready to prosper the mosque.
Muslims in many parts of the world, including in America and Indonesia, entered Ramadan 1442 Hijri Monday afternoon (12/4). Even though there is still a pandemic, which forced all mosques to close during Ramadan last year, Muslims are grateful that mosques are now able to operate again and are ready to hold tarawih prayers.
Nur Siswo Rahardjo is an Indonesian Muslim who is active in Ramadan activities at the Islamic Society of Greater Chattanooga (ISGC), Tennessee. He said, “By continuing to follow the instructions of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), social distancing, and others. We open a mosque. So, operation as usual with limited capacity. Highly reduced capacity.”
About 60 percent of mosques and Muslim organizations in America refer to the decision of the Fiqh Council of North America (FCNA), which bases the decision, setting the start and end of Ramadan, on the method of reckoning or calculation. Others followed Saudi Arabia’s decision, which made decisions based on observations of the moon’s position.
ISGC follows Saudi Arabia’s decision in determining the start of Ramadan. Meanwhile, the Indonesian Muslim Community in the Washington, DC area, which is a member of the IMAAM (Indonesian Muslim Association in America) is one of the ones following the FCNA decision.
This year’s Ramadan comes while the world is still grappling with the coronavirus pandemic. However, with more people being vaccinated and understanding how to minimize transmission, mosques this year are confident to open their doors.
The Imam Center Mosque has even opened a place for ablution which has been closed. Meanwhile, ISGC does not feel the need to check the body temperature of the congregation. However, both of them limit the number of congregants for tarawih to a maximum of 200, less than 50 percent of the normal capacity.
In addition to complying with the CDC’s instructions, the Imam Center and ISGC asked the congregation to comply with the Health protocol and bring their own prayer mats to prevent direct contact with the mosque carpet. The Imam Center provides paper as a substitute for prayer mats for those who do not bring. Meanwhile, ISGC covers the carpet with plastic, as conveyed by Nur, who this year is again the committee for the Ramadan program.
“Covered with thick plastic. So, periodically there are volunteers, brothers who mop it with disinfectant. Every day that. Maybe before dawn. So, hopefully it will stay safe,” added Nur.
However, both the Imam Center and ISGC this year are not ready to hold a breaking fast together. They only provide dates and drinks. And even then it is not to be consumed inside, but outside the mosque.
“Iftar doesn’t exist. Potluck doesn’t exist either. There is no iftar at the mosque. We are still a bit strict there. Even though the mosque is open, we don’t hold iftar together.”
Nur admitted to feeling lost by not having iftar together because there was festivity and togetherness. However, he invites Muslims to continue to prosper the mosque with the five daily prayers, tarawih, participate in various activities and, most importantly, he said, be grateful that the mosque is now open again.
“We need to get the best out of it. From all these limitations, we just enjoy it. We are grateful,” he concluded. [ka/uh]