JAKARTA/KOLKATA (Dispatches) -- Muslims across Asia, taking precautions against the novel coronavirus such as wearing face masks and temperature checks, performed prayers on Friday to mark the festival of Eid al-Adha in mosques with reduced capacity as well as on the streets.
In Indonesia, worshippers were advised to maintain social distancing during the prayers as the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country struggles to contain the spread of the virus.
Indonesia’s religious ministry also asked mosques to shorten ceremonies this year, while many mosques cancelled the ritual of slaughtering livestock and distributing meat to the community.
Instead the donated sheep, goats and cows were to be killed in abattoirs to mark the ‘Feast of the Sacrifice’, celebrated by Muslims around the world to commemorate Prophet Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son Ismail at God’s command.
"This year’s Eid al-Adha is very different from previous years because we need to follow health protocols as we perform prayers, like maintaining social distancing,” said Devita Ilhami, 30, who was at the Sunda Kelapa mosque in Jakarta.
She also noted they had to bring their own prayer mats, with markers on the ground to show where they should be laid.
Elsewhere in Asia, Muslims including in Thailand and Malaysia prayed in or outside mosques wearing masks.
In Malaysia, while some mosques cancelled the ritual of slaughtering livestock, 13 cows were killed in the traditional way by cutting the throat under rules limiting the number of animals and people at the Tengku Abdul Aziz Shah Jamek mosque in Kuala Lumpur.
Meanwhile, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani attended prayers in Kabul. Taliban militants have announced they will observe a three-day ceasefire for the holiday, offering some respite from weeks of increasing violence in the country.
In India, where Eid will be celebrated mostly from Saturday, several states have eased coronavirus restrictions to allow worshippers to gather in mosques in limited numbers.
"Only small groups of worshippers will be allowed into mosques,” said Shafique Qasim, a senior cleric at the Nakhoda mosque in the eastern city of Kolkata, adding that no prayers would be held on the streets.
Ritual sacrifices would be performed in enclosed areas, away from public view, and the remains carefully collected and disposed, he said.
In Iran, people attended the Eid al-Adha
prayers and remembered the memory of 464 Iranian pilgrims, who lost their lives during a hajj stampede in Mina in 2015, which Tehran blamed on Saudi organizers’ incompetence.
Thousands of people also attended the first Eid al-Adha prayers in more than 80 years at Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque in Istanbul.
Turkish Parliament speaker Mustafa Sentop and other senior officials joined the prayers at the iconic building, which was turned back to a mosque earlier this month.
Thousands of people filled mosques in Syria, but Eid prayers were not performed in public in Damascus and its countryside after the Ministry of Endowment banned congregations due to the rise in coronavirus cases.