SINGAPORE: Muslims should avoid traditional Hari Raya visits and gatherings, so as to follow restrictions on public and private gatherings during the "circuit breaker" period aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) noted on Friday (May 15) that the Hari Raya Aidilfitri holiday - which falls on May 24 - is still within the circuit breaker period.
"Visits to loved ones in different households, especially elderly family members, should be deferred until restrictions on visits are lifted, except where important care-giving is required," the council said, adding that those heading out to do festive shopping should do so individually and keep trips as short as possible.
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MUIS noted that the elderly are at the greatest risk of severe disease, complications and mortality due to COVID-19.
It added that long visits that involve close physical interaction will increase this risk.
"It is all the more important to take precautions now and adjust to the new norms, so that we can visit our loved ones later when it is safe to do so, in more Hari Rayas to come," it said.
In a press conference on Friday, Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said that aside from the legal restrictions, people should think of the wellbeing of their loved ones during this period.
"Ultimately every visit you make to your parent, every visit you make to an elderly (person), exposes that person to the risk of contracting COVID-19. It is not just about being fined for violating the safe distancing measures," said Mr Masagos, who is also Environment and Water Resources Minister.
Those who flout the rules on social gatherings across different households face fines of up to S$10,000 and six months in jail for a first offence.
When asked if Muslims would be able to make their Hari Raya visits once the circuit breaker ends on Jun 1, Mr Masagos said the multi-ministry taskforce tackling COVID-19 is still deliberating on what restrictions can be lifted.
More information may be available next week, said Mr Masagos, adding that people must be prepared to continue to observe stringent circuit breaker rules until it is decided that they can be lifted.
The council added it has planned several initiatives to help Muslims fulfil their religious duties during the Hari Raya period while adhering to safe distancing measures.
The recitation of the takbir (prayer call) in mosques on the eve of Hari Raya will not be possible due to the closure of mosques in the country, it noted.
This will instead by done by Muslims with their family members in their own homes, with Mufti Dr Nazirudin Mohd Nasir and various asatizah (religious teachers) leading live via online channels, such as MUIS' SalamSG TV Youtube channel, as well as on the Facebook accounts of MUIS and individual mosques.
"This will be done for the first time in Singapore," MUIS said.
It noted that Dr Nazirudin will address the Muslim community on the SalamSG TV channel on how the community can continue to fulfil its religious duties during Hari Raya amidst the COVID-19 situation, adding that he will be joined by former Mufti Dr Fatris Bakaram and President of Singapore, Madam Halimah Yacob.
MUIS also noted the takbir and Aidilfitri prayers on the morning of Hari Raya cannot be performed at mosques, as is typically the case.
"This year, as our mosques remain closed, Muslims will celebrate the morning of Hari Raya in their homes with their family members of the same household," the council said.
They can also join in the live takbir via Mediacorp radio station Warna 94.2 FM, or via the Facebook pages of local mosques, and perform the traditional Aidilfitri prayers at home.
After the prayers, the Mufti will deliver a live Hari Raya sermon which will be broadcast over radio, as well as various online channels such as SalamSG TV.
"Today, technology has given us the opportunity to creatively use teleconferencing tools and mobile messaging applications to fulfil our religious obligations and even make “virtual” Hari Raya visits to our loved ones, so as to keep our ties and traditions alive," MUIS said.
It added the community had shown "great resilience and responsibility" in continuing to fulfil its religious obligations throughout Ramadan, and would continue to do so in the months ahead.
"This will be a special Hari Raya season that requires all of us to remain vigilant, resilient and united," the council said.
"We must take a serious view of the COVID-19 threat, exercise social responsibility, and keep our loved ones and the larger Singapore society safe. Only then can we overcome this challenge and emerge stronger as a community."