Like rest of the Muslim world, Pakistanis celebrated the religious festival Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival that marked the end of month of fasting, but amid a controversy and surprise.

The Muslims follow the lunar calendar and a month starts on the sighting of the moon. Usually, the sighting of the moon continues till around an hour after the sunset and the decision of whether the moon has been sighted or not is announced within an hour and a half. But on Wednesday night, the Central Ruet Hilal Committee, which is entrusted with the task of the sighting of the moon, announced at around 11.30 local time that the moon has been sighted and Eid will be celebrated on Thursday. By that time the faithful had said Tarawih prayers.

The late night decision took the nation by surprise, while a video of Mufti Yaseen Zafar, a member of the Central Committee, complicated the matter.

Maulana Abdul Khabir Azad, head of the committee, told the media that evidence of moon sighting from Balochistan and other areas were received late and were accepted.

Earlier, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry had said in a tweet that the age of the moon in Pakistan was 13 hours and 42 minutes and it was not possible to see the moon on Wednesday.

However, Pakistanis celebrated Eid on Thursday amid coronavirus pandemic fear. The religious scholars issued edicts (Fatwa) that Muslims should fast the next day as Thursday was the 30th day of Ramzan.

Meanwhile, India and Bangladesh observed the 30th day of Ramzan on Thursday and will celebrate Eid on Friday.

THE WORLD: Muslims across the world celebrated Eid al-Fitr with masks and prayers, as conflicts and coronavirus restrictions cast shadows over the festival’s mass gatherings and family reunions.

Many COVID-hit countries imposed curbs, shut shops and even some mosques.

“(We are) very lucky that we can pray together this year when we couldn’t do it last year,” said Tri Haryati Ningsih, 53, at the Dian Al-Mahri mosque in the Indonesian city of Depok, south of the capital Jakarta.

“Hopefully, the coronavirus will pass quickly and we can always worship together,” she added.

In a typical year, millions would travel to their hometowns to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramzan with their families, and crowd into markets and malls sharing greetings and sweets.

In Depok, the faithful wore masks as they arrived and sanitised their hands before going in.

At the entrance, a poster outlining six steps recommended by the World Health Organisation to prevent the spread of COVID-19 served as a reminder of the danger.

PALESTINE: Muslims also marked Eid under the shadow of oppression, past and present.

In Gaza, the usual excitement of Eid turned to mourning for some after a heavy night of Israeli air strikes during the fiercest flare-up in years.

“Every year, we would dress up and make visits. This year we will not go anywhere,” said 20-year-old Basma Al-Farra in Khan Younis refugee camp.

Rockets and missiles in dizzying numbers have been exchanged since Monday between Hamas militants in Gaza and Israel’s military across the enclave’s boundary after the latest tensions related to land ownership in Jerusalem erupted into Israeli atrocities. 

AFGHANISTAN: The Taliban declared a three-day ceasefire for Eid just days after a bombing that killed 80 people, most of them schoolgirls.

Some children in Kabul enjoyed the festival at an amusement park, shrieking with delight as they rode carousels and high-flying swings.

“Afghanistan is unfortunately involved in war and insecurity, but the people are delighted with this three-day ceasefire,” said Noorulah Stanikzai, a young resident of Kabul relaxing at the park with his friends.

IRAQ: In the city of Mosul, which was badly damaged in the long war between Iraqi forces and the Daesh that ended in 2017, worshippers gathered in the historic but largely ruined 7th century al-Masfi mosque.

Eid prayers were held there for the first time since parts of it were reduced to rubble. The prayers were instigated by a local group of volunteers to help amplify their calls for the Old City to be rebuilt.

“We are happy about Eid and other celebrations, but there is also heartbreak because of great destruction in Mosul until this day,” said Ayyub Dhanun, one of the volunteers.

“This is an invitation to rebuild this monument and to compensate Mosul residents by rebuilding their houses in old Mosul.”


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