KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 — Around 20 or so Muslims today attempted to continue the annual tradition of going to the mosque to perform Aidilfitri prayers to kick off the Hari Raya festivities, but were asked to leave the compound of the iconic Masjid Negara in line with the rule against public gathering under the new normal to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the past, the first day of Hari Raya for Muslims in Malaysia would mean going to the mosque in the morning, performing prayers together led by the imam or Muslim leader at the mosque, before listening to the sermon that could also be heard over loudspeakers, and then greeting each other and lingering around for chats, before going home to celebrate Raya with their families such as by giving out duit raya (green packets with money) and feasting.
Unlike past years where the mosques would be crowded and packed with crowds and families in a festive mood on the first day of Raya, Masjid Negara in Kuala Lumpur today, however, had a quiet atmosphere with its gates shut.
Based on Malay Mail's observations at Masjid Negara today, there were initially about three people at the steps outside the national mosque's main entrance at around 8am, but by 8.30am those who went to the steps to start performing prayers increased to some 20 people — with most appearing to be foreigners.
These 20 or so individuals, who had prepared their own prayer mats, were seen taking off their footwear before praying while being spaced apart from each other.
But within minutes of the small crowd starting to perform prayers, several police personnel were seen asking them to disperse and return home, telling them that they could not gather outside the mosque.
The crowd did not object and complied with police instructions to disperse and leave the mosque area. The national mosque was quiet with no loudspeakers broadcasting prayers or sermons.
Shortly after the dispersal, several police and army personnel were seen standing guard and stationed at the Masjid Negara compound that was emptied out by 9am.
Malaysia is currently under a conditional movement control order (CMCO) until June 9 with bans on public gatherings and other restrictions to avoid crowds from forming, but mosques have been gradually allowed to resume activities but with limitations.
On May 15, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) director-general Datuk Paimuzi Yahya had said Friday prayers, daily prayers, tarawih prayers, and Hari Raya Aidilfitri prayers would be allowed to resume at Masjid Negara as it was within a green zone, but with numbers limited to a maximum 30 persons.
Rules for prayers in mosques under apply differently in different states as Islamic affairs is a state matter, with Kedah and Johor allowing Aidilfitri prayers on the first day of Hari Raya in mosques there with a maximum of 12 individuals allowed, while states such as Sabah, Selangor and Penang have disallowed Aidilfitri prayers at mosques this year with some states however allowing broadcasts from mosques and suraus.
Selangor had even gone one step further to say that Muslims are not to visit cemeteries of their loved ones either before or after Aidilfitri prayers or during Aidilfitri celebrations as in past years, advising them to recite prayers at home instead for the deceased family members.
Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently said that the National Security Council’s standard operating procedures have specified that no one is allowed to pray outside mosques during the CMCO period.
The Federal Territories Mufti’s Office had recently issued a religious opinion piece to say it is valid to carry out Aidilfitri prayers at home either alone or with family and that one of the family members could read out the sermon, while Jakim has on its website prepared a kit as a guide on celebrating Hari Raya at home during the Covid-19 pandemic along with a text for the Aidilfitri sermon to be read at home.