Online Majlis, Masks, Social Distancing – Muharram 2020 In Kargil
Listening to majlis through loudspeaker and online, Muharram 2020 is a new experience for Shia Muslims in Kargil.
Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia
Video Producer: Zijah Sherwani
Camera: Muzammil Mustafa
The main town of Kargil and its surrounding areas were completely shut down on 25 July by the district administration of Kargil. This was done to limit the spike of COVID-19 cases.
Shiite Muslims, who form a substantial population of around one and a half lakh in Ladakh, are observing Muharram, the first month of Islamic new year commemorated by mourning the martyrdom of Imam Hussain and his companions and to learn lessons from their lives.
Unlike previous years, mourning congregations are quite different in a pandemic. This year in Kargil, Muharram is being observed by strictly following the SOPs and COVID-19 guidelines as issued by the district administration, keeping in mind that no one is safe until everyone is safe.
In this new normal, online majlis (congregation) are increasing.
“The whole market area is sealed so the participation of people is very less. Online majlis are increasing. People can attend Muharram sessions. Even if it’s not with others, at least observe it from your house.”Marjuma, Local
Muharram is generally commemorated with people from all walks of life coming together, forming a huge crowd of men, women and children. This year, keeping in mind social distancing, such scenes are missing.
People Over 55 Years & Children Below 10 Not Allowed In Imambaras
Comparatively less number of people are allowed to take part in the ritual of mourning. The number of people in a mourning premise is 25-30 now, less than 10 percent of what we used to see in the past.
The sitting arrangement is such that social distancing is ensured.
The SOPs issued by the district administration and organisers of majlis at different places have clearly stated that people above 55 or 60 years of age, children below 10 years, and people with symptoms of cold, fever or any other sickness cannot come to such places.
“We are afraid to go for majlis. Nowadays, we hear about a lot of deaths being reported.”Sakina, Local
Proper sanitisation protocols are followed by making the mourners wash their hands and feet thoroughly with soap and water. Sanitisers are being used before they enter the congregation premises.
Wearing a mask is essential for everyone coming for Majlis-e-Aza, failing which people may be fined. All of these are under the close supervision of the district magistrates and the concerned committees.
The people of Kargil welcomed and readily accepted the decision of authorities, be it district administration or religious organisations, to follow the guidelines for the sake of everyone’s health.
Arrangement of Loudspeakers & Online Majlis a First
In rural areas, the scenes of observing Muharram are peculiar and interesting. People sit in their homes, and watch and listen to preaching over the internet and television. The youth have come up with new ideas to make sure that each and every devotee sitting home do not miss any majlis.
For the convenience of those who are sitting in their homes due to the guidelines, loudspeakers are seen arranged at different places around the Imambara so that people could listen to preaching.
“We watch and listen to majlis through the internet and TV. This is really new, and it is not like attending a majlis physically in the ancestral Imambaras.”Haji Zakir Hussain
“We are trying our level best to place the loudspeakers on masjids around and in other areas. Through loudspeakers, we are making majlis reach people, so that people can sit in their homes and make productive use of majlis.”Anwar Hussain, Organiser, Majlis Baroo
This year, Muharram for Muslims all over the world has been a different experience altogether. Here in Kargil, the district administration, religious institutions and the public seem to have serious concerns for the growing graph of COVID-19 cases. The people of Kargil are also suffering due to strict lockdown.
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