Marking an abrupt change to a tradition long revered by thousands of Egyptians during the month of Ramadan, the Ministry of Endowments has banned charity iftar tables in order to curb the infection of COVID-19 in the country.
In a statement released on Saturday, the Ministry stressed that charitable associations and all philanthropists are advised to present cash and food donations to the needy instead.
These measures are meant at preventing gatherings and opportunities for the outbreak, especially in the time of the holy month of Ramadan which is set to start April 23.
Most commonly referred to as ‘mawaad el rahman’, the charitable iftar practice consists of providing free meals to individuals at the time of breaking the fast.
It is usually offered to low-income individuals who cannot afford food, homeless individuals or passerby who need a meal at the time.
The tradition is a popular one in Egypt, with families, associations, restaurants and mosques as well as churches holding their own ‘mawad el rahman’.
Moreover, a popular religious practice at night is for Muslims to pray ‘taraweeh’ prayers at mosque during Ramadan. However, with the current ban on communal prayers, it is unclear which position the Egyptian government will take on the matter.
At the end of March, Egypt’s two biggest religious institutions suspended all religious gatherings and congregations.
The suspension of gatherings has also affected the Easter Coptic Church services and prayers which are on-going for Holy Week (April 5 to 11).
Worldwide, religious celebrations and gatherings have been affected as governments grapple to flatten the curve. In Italy, where the pandemic is considered dire with a death toll of over 15,000, Pope Francis held a celebration without public for Palm Sunday Mass in St Peter’s Basilica.
As the number of affected surpassed 1,000 in Egypt, the government has been advising individuals to practice social distancing to prevent a sudden spike in the number of cases.
Featured image source: DPA Picture-Alliance