Though upbeat about the commencement of the holy month of Ramzan, Muslims in Jammu are disappointed that they will have to miss traditional activities like breaking the day-long fast in groups with their loved ones and the extra night congregational prayers in mosques, amid the coronavirus-driven lockdown.
Muslim religious bodies and leaders are making repeated announcements to the faithful to continue to strictly follow the government's guidelines and avoid assembling at mosques for prayers five times a day including the 'Tarawih' or extra nightly prayer usually held during Ramzan.
All mosques along with other religious places including temples and Gurudwaras across Jammu region and the rest of the country were closed for devotees last month as the Union Territory administration enforced a strict lockdown to prevent the spread of novel coronavirus, which had so far claimed the life of a woman in Udhampur district and infected 56 others in the region.
Four other persons have died of coronavirus in Kashmir, where a total of 351 persons were tested positive for the disease.
The holy month of Ramzan is likely to start on Friday or Saturday, depending upon the sighting of the crescent moon.
"We will be following Islam if we stay at our homes during the present crisis of a global pandemic instead of going out to offer prayers at mosques and endanger lives," provincial president, Muslim Personal Law Board, Jammu Mufti Nazir Ahmad Qadri told PTI.
He said the Prophet Mohammad had said that one should stay where they are during an epidemic. Qadri said the board has already issued detailed statements and guidelines to be followed including avoiding visiting mosques for prayers during the holy month.
"We reiterate our appeal to the Muslims not to venture out, hold prayers at their homes and maintain social distancing. Life is precious and it is our duty to safeguard it," he said.
Qadri said during the holy month there usually is heavy rush of devotees at the mosques for prayers.
He said Ramzan is also the month of increased charity and many poor Muslims look forward to it, therefore the affluent must provide wholeheartedly to the needy affected by the lockdown.
"The custodian of Muslim shrines and other properties should take a lead to help the needy," he said.
The Imams (one who leads the prayers) of various mosques in the city have also been regularly making announcements asking Muslims to honour the lockdown and to not come to the mosques for prayers.
"The people need to adhere to the government's guidelines during Ramzan as the deadly virus is a threat to mankind. We know Muslims eagerly wait for this sacred month and they have religious sentiments attached with it," Maulvi Abdul Rehman said while requesting Muslims not to visit mosques.
He said it is not compulsory as per the religion that the extra night prayer during Ramzan be offered in congregation only. "When we are praying the five times compulsory prayers at our homes this time due to the pandemic, the people are requested not to come to the mosques for the night prayers," Rehman said.
Supporting the call for prayers at home, local resident Mohammad Latif said the fasting month would be observed with religious fervour but various activities would be missed during the month.
"There will be no Quranic Tarawih (reciting complete Quran by Imam during prayers), iftar parties (breaking of fast) and the Shab-e-Qadr (night of destiny which falls in the last week of the month)," Latief said while expressing disappointment over missing congregational prayers including Friday prayers for the first time in his life over the past seven weeks.
He said the government should make special arrangements to ensure that the Muslim community gets adequate items needed during the month of fasting.
Some Muslim families who are left stranded in Jammu due to the sudden lockdown have desired to be transported to their homes before the commencement of the holy month.
"We used to spend winter months in Jammu to escape bitter cold in the Kashmir valley. We were planning to leave when suddenly the lockdown came into effect and we were left stranded," Ghulam Nabi, a resident of Srinagar, said.
He said the weather in Jammu is very hot compared to Srinagar and it is going to be difficult for his family to bear the weather during the month-long fasting.
Businessman Farooq Ahmad Bhat said he wanted to observe the fasting month with his family in Pulwama district of south Kashmir.
"We appeal to the government to make special arrangements for our return to Kashmir in the next couple of days so that we can observe the Ramzan with our families," Bhat said.
Social distancing is key in combating the virus and the people should take the guidelines seriously, he said.
Niyaz Ahmad Bhat, a resident of Sidhra locality of Jammu, said he will be observing the fast with a prayer on his lips to defeat the virus.