Hyderabad ushers in Ramadan on subdued note

FREEDOM PRESS BUREAU

Hyderabad, April 25: With the Coronavirus-induced lockdown in full effect, the holy month of Ramadan began on Saturday on a subdued note in this historic city, famous for festivities.

The streets, which used to come alive with shoppers with the onset of Ramadan, stayed almost deserted with people struggling even to buy groceries, vegetables and other essentials.

The holy month began with the sighting of moon on Friday, but the fervour associated with the annual event was missing. Like every year, the sirens were blared from mosques to mark the sighting of moon.

With the night curfew in force, people received the news about sighting of moon through television or social media. Relatives and friends greeted each other over phone and prayed for an early end to the pandemic and the testing time for the humanity.

Hyderabad, with a rich Muslim heritage, will not just be missing the spiritual ambiance that envelopes the city during Ramadan but also the unprecedented month-long economic activity and the feasts with lip-smacking dishes.

The centuries-old markets around historic Charminar and Mecca Masjid, the hub of Ramadan festivities, wore a desolate look.

Thousands used to throng the 17th century mosque, one of the biggest in India, while the markets surrounding it would be abuzz with people shopping for everything — from bangles to ready-made garments to household items.

In normal days, traffic moved at snail’s pace with vendors selling fruits, dates, perfumes and other goods, occupying footpath. Hotels and road-side eateries did brisk business selling ‘Haleem’, a special delicacy of Ramadan, ‘Dahi bade’ and other food items for ‘Iftar’ or breaking of fast.

Citizens said they had never seen a Ramadan like this in their lifetime. “We have seen difficult times during Ramadan on a few occasions, either because of rains or law and order issues. But there have been nothing like this. It’s really painful,” said 78-year-old Rafeeq Ahmed, who resides near Charminar.

The last time when the city had witnessed a Ramadan like this, it’s said, was in 1908 due to massive floods in Musi river. The floods that began on September 26 had washed away homes in a large part of the city, killing around 15,000 people.

The lockdown has been extended in Hyderabad and the rest of Telangana till May 7 and citizens believe even if the lockdown is lifted the remaining part of Ramadan may not see revival of economic activity due to restrictions.

There is a ban on congregational prayers in mosques ever since the lockdown began on March 23. Only imam, muezzin and a couple of other persons are offering prayers in mosques.

Religious scholars of all schools of thought have urged people to offer prayers at their homes. In addition to five regular namaz a day, mosques during Ramadan used to see ‘Taraveeh’, special prayers every night during which the holy Quran was recited.

People used to gather at mosques every day for breaking the fast. Hundreds of people, including women, would join iftar on the sprawling laws of Mecca Masjid. Individuals, organisations, political parties and even the government organised iftar, highlighting communal harmony and Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb.

Due to Covid-19 and lockdown, ulemas have appealed people not to host iftar. They have been advised to have both sahar (pre-dawn meals) and iftar at home.

Azan (call for prayers) from mosques are continuing but restrictions on congregational prayers remain in force. Similarly, blaring of sirens to announce the end of sahar and begnning of iftar will continue.

Home Minister Mohammed Mehmood Ali asked officials to allow azan and use of siren at mosques. He said people can continue to buy fruits and other essentials during the day.

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao, his cabinet colleagues, leaders of various political parties and eminent personalities greeted Muslims on the commencement of Ramadan.

“May this auspicious month further the spirit of harmony, happiness and brotherhood in our society,” the Chief Minister said.

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