Muslims in the UAE are envisioning and preparing for a very different Eid this year with Covid-19 precautionary measures and movement restrictions, a day that's otherwise spent out in crowds. Khaleej Times speaks to different UAE residents to explore how they will celebrate and retain the essence of Eid even as they stay safe.
Educationists emphasise on compassion
Educationists across the country are urging their students to make prayer a priority and understand the values of compassion this Eid. Dr Aishah Siddiqua, director of the Dubai National School has been busy producing videos and drafting messages that she will share with her students today.
She is looking forward to the online meet and greet not only with her relatives from across the globe but also with her school family. This includes her students and other staff members who will all gather at a fixed time on Sunday morning to exchange greetings and be privy to some heart-to-heart conversations.
"While people can virtually meet each other, they can also celebrate the day by preparing interesting cuisines and sitting down to eat with their immediate families, which is equally precious. I am making a fusion of Indian and Arabic food. So, I'll be making the Hyderabadi Biriyani and the traditional Kabsa.
"There are some post-Covid-19 messages as well. This Eid we must emphasise on empathy and kindness. I urge all my students to not go out for Eid shopping this year and abide by the government guidelines on staying home and being safe. If possible try and donate a small amount to the Covid-19 fund, people affected by the recent cyclone or to any compensation fund," she added.
Asma Gilani, principal and CEO of Our Own English High School - Sharjah (Girls), said the spirit of the festival should not be dampened. "We will have a virtual 'Eid Milan' with parents and students. This festival is all about meeting up. We are urging our pupils to be more creative. Many of them will be doing henna tattoos and can celebrate through online gatherings. We are trying to retain the flavour as much as possible and this Eid will surely be a memorable one in everyone's lives."
Both the headteachers also remind students to be mindful of the events happening around them. "Eid is about togetherness, but we must remember the core values which is the basis of all cultures. There are many people suffering around us, so compassion and sensitivity are important aspects as well. We must all remember that we are all connected to each other," they said.
Faith leaders remind people to be patient
Faith leaders are advising residents to uphold the spiritual aspects of the festival without letting the happiness diminish even as mosques across the country remain closed.
Sharing his hope and consolation, Mohammed Al Hasan Khan, senior Imam at Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department said: "This year, Eid is about being patient. We must follow what our Rulers are saying and if we are patient today, t we will soon get over this and see good health. We may not be able to meet each other physically, but people can engage virtually. Families can transfer Eidia ( Eid money or gifts) digitally this year.
"Parents should take this opportunity to lead the congregational prayers in their homes with the whole family and not miss the rewards for praying in congregation. People should be grateful for what they have and help the needy in these difficult times," he added.
Other religious leaders also reiterate how everyone must whole-heartedly obey the directives issued by the leaders of the UAE and not feel dismayed as this too shall pass. Lewis (Ismail) Bullock, head of cultural communications at the Department at Islamic Information Centre, said: "Do a virtual exchange of greetings, decorate your homes and do the best you can while staying at home. One can make up for not going out later whenever the situation gets better. Make it an enjoyable day at home with your family. Things can be bought online instead of going out physically. The Eidiya can be sent as a credit or vouchers are an apposite gift. There are alternative ways of rejoicing on this day, instead of focusing on what can't be done."
Charities urge residents to think about others
Social workers have stepped up efforts differently as well, to keep up with the pace of Eid during the pandemic. Juhi Yasmeen Khan, a social worker for 24 years, has been working tirelessly to help the underprivileged in the country. While she has been associated with the Dar Al Ber Society for the past five years, in her personal capacity, she has been unflinching. "This Eid is different due to obvious reasons. My family and I have decided to go to the labour accommodation with the food that I am going to cook myself. Helping and looking out for your neighbour's wellbeing is the foundation of our religion.
"Officially, the society has been helping a lot of underprivileged people by giving them rations and ready to eat meals. But even personally, all of us have a responsibility. So reach out to those who are in dire straits and think about them this Eid," she said.
Emphasising on the "spirit of sharing", Muhsin Al Banna, general secretary of the Pakistan Association Dubai (PAD), said: "Teach your children to contribute for the larger good of the society. Encourage them to be a part of new charity initiatives. Catch up with friends and loved ones online. Celebrate responsibly and even as we cook at home lets ensure that we cook enough to feed our family and cut down on any wastage as there are so many around, in this globe right now, who are suffering due to the pandemic."
Families get creative
Families are getting creative by designating prayer corners and children are joyfully busy in DIY activities. Malaysian expat Adeelatul and her family are not organising their annual "open house" this year. They usually organise a feast for around 80 guests on this day with their home-style delicacies. This year the menu has been tweaked and they've decided to keep it simple, yet flavourful.
"Our Eid table will not have traditional Malaysian Biriyani this year. Instead, I will prepare lemongrass rice with chicken curry. We have also prepared some Eid gift bags for a few of our friends and neighbours. These are items that we purchased online. We can hang it on their doors. Our Eid lights are already up. My daughter is excited about putting up streamers and Eid Mubarak banners on the main door. Our children will wear some new clothes that I had bought earlier from Malaysia. We are not buying new clothes this year. All in all, we are trying to keep the tempo going as much as possible."
Syrian expat Majd Al Khatib said an online meeting is up on the cards though she will miss meeting her sister's family in person.
"My sister's family visits us every year which will not happen this time. It is indeed one of the most awaited events among us after a whole month of fasting. It is a day of spreading and sharing joy and happiness but this year has helped us to look inwards instead. I have spent more time with my children this year compared to any previous year. I am grateful for the quality time I spent with my family as I am a working mother," she said.
"Contrary to other years, we will be ordering food from outside this time as we cooked quite a lot this Ramadan since all of us were home. I am grateful to the Almighty for what we have, and all of us will collectively pray from our homes this Eid, for this pandemic to be over soon," added Al Khatib.