Article by Principal Yati, CW
The COVID 19 has ravaged the global economy and caused drastic changes to our way of life. The current lockdowns, in differing degrees, have coincided with the month of Ramadan for the Muslim communities worldwide.
What is ‘Salam’?
In view of the social distancing measures, it has affected Muslims’ traditional manner of greeting one another, known as ‘Salam’, which holds immense meaning in itself.
‘Salam’ is a handshake with a touching of palms, where both hands are extended to sandwich the recipient’s right hand. The hands are then retracted, bringing the right hand (or both hands) to touch his or her own chest for a few seconds to mean, ‘I greet you from my heart’.This handshake is commonly practised among the Malays when they meet and greet one another.
Due to social distancing measures, physical contact is generally abstained, which, unfortunately, includes the ‘Salam’ amongst the Malay community. They now hold their own hands to their chest, as a sign of respect, in place of the normal ‘Salam’ handshake. This is in line with the religious guidelines issued in 2003 during the SARS outbreak.
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year in the Islamic culture, during which, Muslims fast between dawn and sunset. It is a time for Muslims to devote themselves to their faith in spiritual reflection, prayer, performing good deeds and spending time with family and friends. It is usual for Muslims, during Ramadan, to make a special effort to connect with their community and to reach out to the less fortunate.
This year’s Ramadan will be different. The Covid-19 outbreak prevents the visiting of friends and family, including the local mosque. Ramadan bazaars around Singapore, especially in Geylang Serai, have been cancelled. The bazaars in Geylang Serai is a popular venue for Muslims to purchase food for their daily evening breaking of fast with their families, as well as the buying of necessities for the upcoming Hari Raya Puasa celebrations.
What is Hari Raya Puasa Celebration?
Hari Raya Puasa means ‘Day of Celebration’, which is an important religious festival celebrated by the Muslims in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. This festival marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting, which is greeted with great joy, symbolizing purification, renewal, and victory in self-restraint. By doing the ‘Salam, handshake, forgiveness is sought among family members.
Prior to Hari Raya Puasa, houses are thoroughly cleaned and decorated, ready to welcome visits by relatives and friends. They celebrate the festival’s evening with friends and families, serving delicious food like cakes, sweets, biscuits, ketupat, rendang (a meat cuisine), etc.
On the day of Hari Raya Puasa, Muslims dress in new clothes. They go for prayers in mosques in the early morning, followed by visiting the graves of their loved ones who had passed on.
Hari Raya Puasa Celebration amidst Circuit Breaker
This year’s Hari Raya Puasa celebration will be unusual with the Circuit Breaker, as visits to relatives and friends will not be carried out due to social distancing measures. Nevertheless, the spirit of the festival can still be kept alive in homes, where Muslims continue with their own prayers and private celebrations at home. Needless to say, the celebration will be low-key. The ambience of big family gatherings on the first day of the festival will be greatly missed.
Technology to the Rescue!
Fortunately, technology has saved the day, albeit, unlike reality. The availability of Zoom, Webex, and the like, will provide virtual reality of such gatherings to create the ambience of the celebration. The ‘Salam’ handshake may be performed virtually, where the forgiveness among family members may be sought, and the exchange of greetings among relatives may be conveyed.
A Positive Outlook
Looking from a positive perspective, the circuit breaker will give Muslims the opportunity to spend more time with their immediate family during this celebration, for the strengthening of family ties.