Azlan Othman, Lyna Mohamad & Rokiah Mahmud
Muslims in the country are observing Hari Raya Aidilfitri as best they can, under a new norm defined by social distancing regulations brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the recent easing of public health restrictions to allow a limit of 20 to 30 people at a single gathering, most families celebrated the holiday behind closed doors.
Zakaria bin Suhaili told the Bulletin, “We only bought a few biscuits and cakes, and performed the Sunnat Aidilfitri prayers at home. The travel restrictions meant that we were unable to visit relatives across the border, but we used digital platforms to make video calls and exchange stories and photos about celebrating Hari Raya in a new way.”
Latipah binti Abdullah said, “With no open house and only my children and grandchildren as visitors, Hari Raya has a different atmosphere to it this year.”
Traditionally, mosques, suraus and religious halls would be packed with worshippers to mark the end of Ramadhan, but this year, mosques remained closed due to concerns over the outbreak. Instead, prayers were performed at home.
With Tongkat Khutbah in hand, Muslims performed the prayers guided by sermons prepared by the Mosque Affairs Department of the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Government Printing Department of the Prime Minister’s Office.
The males of the home delivered the Hari Raya Aidilfitri sermon and led the prayers.
Another glaring difference this year is that celebrants have ditched hugging and pressing palms as they greet one another, opting instead to bow or smile as they observe the standard operating procedures in celebrating the festivities.
Meanwhile, it was a far more sombre mood for celebrants currently under quarantine in the Sultanate.
Senior government officer Pengiran Hajah Khartini binti Pengiran Haji Tahir shared that it is indeed a different mood this time around, as she spent the first day of Syawal in her quarantine room at Wafa Hotel & Apartment.
“Typically, my family and I will wake up early for family greetings and to seek forgiveness from one another, before heading out to visit the homes of senior family members. I feel lonely on this auspicious occasion, however, my husband and children made a video call from the hotel parking space (which is visible from my room) and that has helped lift my spirits,” she said.
Pengiran Hajah Khartini is undergoing compulsory quarantine after arriving home from her posting abroad, just days before the festivities.
“It’s sad, but it is my duty as a Brunei citizen to meet these requirements as it concerns the safety and well-being of the nation. I would also like to convey my deepest appreciation to the hardworking and dedicated frontliners working to curb the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Meanwhile, Brunei student Muhammad Aminuddin bin Muhammad Farid, who is undergoing quarantine, also shared the same sentiment. Muhammad Aminuddin and other Brunei students returned home from Kuala Lumpur recently.
Muhammad Aminuddin, who is a United Kingdom (UK) Degree Transfer Programme in Law at INTI International University and College in Malaysia, said he usually makes a brief trip home to celebrate the festivities with his family.
“This year, I was unable to be with them on the first day of Hari Raya, nor was I able to join in on the tradition of greeting and seeking forgiveness from my parents, grandmother and relatives. It feels hollow inside, but I understand as it is my obligation to adhere to the quarantine requirements,” he said.
Fortunately, he was able to join a Raya video call from his quarantine room at Parkview Hotel to greet everyone who had gathered at his grandmother’s house.
“My parents dropped off my favourite Raya dishes from my grandmother. I always miss her cooking while abroad, and although I only got to see her over the phone, enjoying her food made me feel as if she was here with me.”