The Ramadan month for Muslims in Malaysia will be a different experience from previous years due to the implementation of the MCO. What are the dos and don’ts for Muslims during this period? The answers below were compiled from an interview with Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of Religious Affairs Datuk Seri Dr Zulkifli Al-Bakri (pic).
Q: Must Muslims fast during the movement control order (MCO) period and during a pandemic?
A: Fasting in Ramadan is a religious obligation for all Muslims who are able-bodied and of sound mind. There are exemptions for those who cannot fast due to medical conditions or circumstances which do not allow them to fast. Ramadan under the MCO is no different, the only new thing is that our movements have to be controlled. Muslims must follow what the Health Ministry and authorities say on what can be done and what cannot be done while we fast.
Q: Must Muslim frontliners, for example, medical and security personnel, fast during Ramadan?
A: Muslim frontliners who find it difficult to fast while on duty are exempted from fasting but they are obliged to “pay” it back later when they are not on duty. However, if you can fast while on duty and it is not injurious to your health and safety, then you are encouraged to fast during Ramadan.
Q: Must Covid-19 patients fast?
A: For Muslim patients who need to take medications at certain times, there is no obligation for them to fast. But when they have recovered, they must fast. For those found to be Covid-19 carriers or suspected to have the virus and have no symptoms and are not on medications of any kind, and are in isolation or quarantine and feel well, they are obliged to fast during Ramadan.
Q: Can a Muslim go for a Covid-19 swab test while he or she is fasting?
A: Yes, they can and a Covid-19 swab test does not invalidate their fast.
Q: Muslims cannot perform terawih prayers in the mosques and surau. Do Muslims still need to perform terawih prayers?
A: Terawih is a form of voluntary prayer carried out during Ramadan nights. There is no obligation to congregate to perform terawih prayers. One can do it in one’s own home. Under the MCO, Muslims must follow the government’s advice and not go to mosques or surau or congregate. You will get the same reward if you do it at home with your family as in the mosque, as the intention to pray in a congregation is already evident.
Q: Muslims normally perform charitable acts during Ramadan, giving food to the mosques and surau for breaking of fast. But now the mosques and surau are closed, how can Muslims continue their charitable acts?
A: If you have the means, you can still deliver aid to the needy by ordering online or through charity bodies appointed by the authorities during Ramadan.
Q: Non-Muslims go to the bazaars during Ramadan as well as the Muslims. Now, there are no bazaars. How can Muslims share the Ramadan spirit with those of other faiths under the MCO?
A: Muslims are obliged to be helpful to everyone, regardless of their religion or race. During Ramadan, they are encouraged to share their buka puasa delicacies with their neighbours without violating the MCO. This will bring harmony to society.
Q: It has been a norm of many Muslims to return to their hometowns and villages for Ramadan to break fast with their parents and relatives. How do Muslims balik kampung during this Ramadan with the MCO in force?
A: Muslims are advised to stay put and stay at home in line with what the authorities have asked the people to do in order to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. They must put off their balik kampung plans for now to stop the infection from spreading further. Returning to the villages and hometowns may spread the virus to your loved ones as we may be carriers of the disease.
Q: Must children fast during Ramadan during the MCO?
A: Muslim children are trained to fast since they are young. There is no obligation for them to fast until they have come of age, are able-bodied and of sound mind.
Q: How do Muslims pay their zakat (tithes) during Ramadan under the MCO?
A: Muslims can pay their zakat online through the zakat.com.my portal which is open 24 hours daily. One can also pay online through banks or authorised agencies.
See Sunday Star for the full interview with Zulkifli.
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