No big family gatherings, as Singapore Muslims adjust Hari Raya plans amid Covid-19 restrictions
SINGAPORE — With a total of seven people in his and his sister’s households, Mr Umar Abdul Latif was looking forward to spending Hari Raya Puasa this year with his extended family at his parents' place.
- Muslims in Singapore had to change their Hari Raya plans after the authorities imposed stricter Covid-19 rules on May 4
- They had to split up their visitations or uninvite some relatives
- Many were still grateful that they could meet some relatives this year
- There was a sense of sadness that normalcy has not yet returned even though they understand the limits had to be in place
SINGAPORE — With a total of seven people in his and his sister’s households, Mr Umar Abdul Latif was looking forward to spending Hari Raya Puasa this year on Thursday (May 13) with his extended family at his parents' place.
As safe distancing rules allowed groups of up to eight people to gather since late December last year, the 33-year-old weight-loss coach said that they were all gearing up for the celebration and even catered food enough for guests.
However, all of their plans had to be adjusted when the authorities announced on May 4 that stricter limits would be imposed to stem the spread of rising Covid-19 cases in the community, and the maximum number of people allowed to gather would be reduced from eight to five.
“Because of this, it was very last-minute," Mr Umar said. "My dad messaged us on WhatsApp, said he wished we could be together. Unfortunately, it’s one of the things we have to face.”
Besides having to reduce the amount of food they catered, they had to adjust visitation plans. His sister's family of three would visit his parents on Wednesday, the eve of Hari Raya Puasa, while his family of four headed down on Thursday morning instead.
Plans were also disrupted for Ms Fatin Namirah. She lives with her parents and grandmother, so it is usually the norm for her relatives to head to her home for the celebrations.
With the cut in gathering sizes, she said that her parents had to decide which relatives they had to uninvite for the first day of Hari Raya. They decided to prioritise relatives who did not have children so that they would not have to celebrate by themselves.
“That was the biggest challenge for my parents… It was quite difficult,” the 25-year-old preschool teacher said.
While some guests were upset at not being able to visit them on the first day of Hari Raya, Ms Namirah said that they understood the reasons why.
The tighter measures also disrupted Ms Namirah’s mother’s cooking plans because she would have to continually provide food for visitors over the next few days, instead of one big meal on the first day.
Hari Raya was a particularly quiet affair for Mr Hafiz Ma’il and his family. Plans to visit his parents and his in-laws were scrapped at the last minute after his son fell ill.
The 32-year-old communications executive spent Thursday morning video-calling them instead — more or less what they did during Hari Raya last year, which fell during the two-month circuit breaker, or the Government's term for a partial lockdown.
As for Ms Raashida Raffi, her family’s initial plans to hop from house to house since each of their households are made up of fewer than eight people also had to be changed.
The 22-year-old student said that her family decided to have two groups of five visit one household at separate timings.
Despite the adjustments, the general sentiment of the Muslim families who spoke to TODAY was that they were still grateful that they could meet their relatives face-to-face this year, a far cry from last year’s occasion when no visiting was allowed.
Mr Umar said he was excited that he could visit his parents on Thursday morning and ask for their forgiveness — a tradition Muslims here practise on the first day of Hari Raya — since he was not able to do so last year.
The family also understood the rationale behind why safety measures had to be tightened given the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in Singapore in recent weeks.
Ms Namirah said that they were prepared for things to change even before the official announcement because they saw the numbers ticking up.
Mr Umar said: “I would say it’s something necessary. It’s a situation we are all facing. As a responsible Singaporean Muslim, I think this is how we can play our part.”
Mr Hafiz echoed the same sentiments.
“There is the significance of meeting (your parents) on the first day and seeking forgiveness from them. But with this Covid situation, we would rather be responsible to ourselves and to our family members,” he said.
Ms Raashida also pointed out that there is no urgent need to visit all their relatives on the first day of Hari Raya and that they will still be able to visit more households over the next few weekends.
At the same time though, there was still a sense of sadness that things have not returned to normalcy.
“It’s just different. The whole Raya vibe is different,” Ms Namirah said.