KOMPAS.com -For Indonesian Muslim Imam Baihaqi, fasting in Hong Kong during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan is more than just gathering with family and friends for iftar or fastbreaking as well as tarawih communal prayer.
As a manager of the Hong Kong branch of the Dompet Dhuafa [Funds for the Needy] religious organization during his time living in the territory over the past two years, this time of year provides an opportunity for him and his family to affirm their faith to others.
"Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, our family would hold share Ramadan [traditions] and the ritual of fasting to [local] non-Muslims," he said in a press release last Thursday.
"We would also invite Muslim clerics from Indonesia to deliver sermons throughout the month. We would culminate Ramadan by holding Ied prayers in parks throughout Hong Kong."
Adjusting Ramadhan in Hong Kong to the new realities of Covid-19
While personal interaction is integral in how Muslims like Imam mark Ramadan, social distancing and the ruling out of large gatherings due to Covid-19 health protocols forced them to go online.
Before the pandemic, mosques play a central role in Ramadan activities such as fastbreaking, communal prayers, and an exchange of services between individuals. However, congregants in the mosque have to abide to social distancing, wearing masks and other health protocols.
These and other constraints kept mosques from even hosting fastbreaking. But this does not detract the meaning of this time of year for Imam.
"The Covid-19 pandemic might change people's habits, especially in how they mark Ramadan," he said. "But prayers and other devotional acts, whether in a group or alone, remains an act of faith."
But for Imam, adjusting to Covid-19 health protocols is not his biggest challenge. "Fasting overseas, especially in a country where the majority does not fast, is challenging. So is homesickness, especially during Ramadan and Idul Fitri," he said.
Like Imam, his Muslim brethren like Hong Kong's Grand Imam Muhammad Arshad traditionally look forward to congregating for prayers and gathering for festive meals to break their fast.
But a glimpse shows that ths type of Community meals like iftar are largely not happening.
While Arshad noted that Hong Kong's 300 thousand strong Muslim population must comply with health protocols like keeping distances and wearing masks , he is certain that even these factors will not keep them from marking Ramadhan and celebrating Idul Fitri or Eid al Fitr.
Arshad added that currently they are still praying tarawih at the mosque with strict health protocols.