One of Britain’s leading imams has said Eid celebrations will be “monumental” this year as Muslims enjoy the first holiday without Covid-19 restrictions since the pandemic began.
Qari Asim, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab), said many traditions which were “sorely missed” over the last two years will finally return.
Muslims will be now able to embrace one another after Eid prayers, get together for large gatherings, and give gifts to loved ones after two years of muted celebrations due to coronavirus.
Imam Asim told the PA news agency it was “excruciatingly painful” to observe Eid last year without the usual festivities as the major relaxation of Covid restrictions was just a few days away.
But he said that, after an “extremely challenging” two years, mosques are now expected to be “flooded with people” as festivities get under way at full capacity.
“Eid is a jubilant occasion, where Muslims come together to celebrate, worship as a community and feast together with family and friends,” he said, speaking ahead of 2022’s celebrations.
“There will be monumental celebrations on the joyous occasion of Eid this year. Everyone is in high spirits and full of joy as this is the first time in two years that we can come together free of all Covid restrictions.
“Mosques all over the country are expected to be flooded with people. We are excited to partake in the communal Eid prayer, standing together shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters in Islam without a face mask or other distancing measures in place.
“It is traditional to hug each other after the Eid prayer, an expression of love that was sorely missed during Eids under restrictions.”
He added: “It is a relief to have such a magnificent celebration return to some normality after such a long time… The past few years have been extremely challenging with the pandemic and various restrictions, so we are really looking forward to holding our family and friends in our arms and saying ‘Eid Mubarak’ – ‘blessed Eid’.”
Mustafa Field, director of Faiths Forum for London, a leading interfaith charity, said events have been planned in parks, community halls and even shopping centres, with Westfield Stratford in the capital organising a food court for the occasion.
“It’s great to see public spaces embrace different cultures,” he said.
“It strengthens our social ties and our diversity.”
He added: “It was really difficult for people not to embrace each other, especially when you meet friends and loved ones. It’s not the same without being able to sit together and have a laugh, sharing good food and embracing each other, carrying different kids and gifting – it’s a really festive period.”
The Muslim Council of Britain also welcomed the first Eid free of restrictions but urged those taking part to remain cautious where possible as it acknowledged the virus is still present.
An MCB spokesperson said: “We welcome the first Eid after the lifting of Covid restrictions and are thankful for the opportunity to meet our families, friends and communities again.
“However, we are aware the virus is still present so we call on Muslim communities to take basic precautions where possible and appropriate.”