Bangsamoro Region gears up for Ramadan

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 21 April) ­– Islamic religious leaders in Mindanao are gearing up for the moon sighting that will determine the start of this year’s Ramadan or the holy month of fasting.

Muslims perform a congregational prayer at a makeshift mosque in Marawi City. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Abuhuraira Udasan, grand mufti (Islamic legal expert) of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), said the ulama (religious experts) of the Regional Darul Ifta (Islamic advisory council) agreed to hold the moon sighting on Wednesday, April 22.

If the moon is sighted on that day, the first day of Ramadan would be Thursday, April 23, he said.

If not sighted, then Friday, April 24, will be the start of the holy month of fasting for Muslim Filipinos, he added.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Muslim calendar where Muslims across the world fast from dawn to dusk, pray and give alms in observance of Islam’s holiest month.

Udasan said the Regional Darul Ifta also issued a fatwa or religious guideline suspending the holding of congregational Taraweeh (ritual) prayers in the mosques during the Ramadan due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“This is in compliance with the Islamic preventive measure such as social distancing,” he stressed.

Udasan noted that COVID-19 remains a threat globally, hence the need to cancel mass gatherings as a precaution against the highly contagious and deadly virus.

During the nightly Taraweeh prayers, devotees stand up should-to-shoulder and do not observe social distancing.

He urged Muslim Filipinos to perform the Taraweeh prayers at the comfort of their home while the government continues to grapple against the COVID-19 contagion.

The Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Masjid, also known as the Grand Mosque, in Cotabato City. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Gandhi Kinjiyo, vice president of Katiyakap Inc., a group of peace advocates in Mindanao, said he would heed the instruction of the region’s Islamic scholars to perform the taraweeh prayer at home.

“This is something new because all these years, we performed the special Taraweeh prayer inside the mosque,” he said.

Nevertheless, he was thankful the Regional Darul Ifta issued the directive suspending the taraweeh prayer ahead of the Ramadan, a move he described as “prudent and swift” in this time of COVID-19 pandemic.

The BARMM, home to about four million people, straddles the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi.

As of Monday, the BARMM Health Ministry reported nine confirmed COVID-19 cases (four recovered, three died, one in the hospital and one under home quarantine) and 235 suspected COVID-19 cases across the region. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)