US Muslims try to balance Eid rituals with virus concerns

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Organizers hand out treats during a drive through Eid al-Fitr celebration outside a closed mosque in Plano, Texas, Sunday, May 24, 2020. Many Muslims in America are navigating balancing religious and social rituals with concerns over the virus as they look for ways to capture the Eid spirit this weekend. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

With no congregational prayers or family gatherings, Salsabiel Mujovic has been worried that this year’s Eid al-Fitr celebration will pale. Still, she’s determined to bring home holiday cheer amid the coronavirus gloom.

Her family can’t go to the mosque, but the 29-year-old New Jersey resident bought new outfits for herself and her daughters. They are praying at home and having a family photo session. The kids are decorating cookies in a virtual gathering, and popping balloons with money or candy inside -- a twist on a tradition of giving children cash gifts for the occasion.

“We’re used to, just like, easily going and seeing family, but now it’s just like there’s so much fear and anxiety,” she said. “Growing up, I always loved Eid. ... It’s like a Christmas for a Muslim.”

Like Mujovic, many Muslims in America are navigating balancing religious and social rituals with concerns over the virus as they look for ways to capture the Eid spirit this weekend.

Eid al-Fitr -- the feast of breaking the fast -- marks the end of Ramadan, when Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Just like they did during Ramadan, many are resorting to at-home worship and relying on technology for online gatherings, sermons and, now, Eid entertainment.

This year, some Muslim-majority countries have tightened restrictions for the holiday which traditionally means family visits, group outings and worshippers flooding mosques or filling public spaces.

The Eid prayer normally attracts particularly large crowds. The Fiqh Council of North America, a body of Islamic scholars, encouraged Muslims to perform the Eid prayer at home.

“We don’t want to have gatherings and congregations,” Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, who prepared the council’s fatwa, or religious edict, said in an interview. “We should try to keep the spirit of Eid alive, even if it’s just in our houses, even if we just decorate our houses and wear our finest for each other.”