Muscat – Thousands of fasting Muslims, mostly blue-collar workers and daily wagers, are disappointed that mosques in the city are not providing iftar to the faithful this Ramadan.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, mosques across the city offered iftar with elaborate arrangements made well in advance to serve food to hundreds, if not thousands, of fasting people daily. This year, however, mosques aren’t offering iftar meals. Those that do, only provide water and dates. The reason for discontinuing the much anticipated tradition is unknown with no official statement or decision on the matter.
Mosques provided a convenient space to break fast for people on the move or those working or living in the vicinity. Most of those who partook of the mosque iftar meals were blue-collar workers or shop attendants unable to be home in time to cook for themselves.
Construction worker Mustafa Khan said, “Working hours are reduced for Muslim brothers, but we don’t work in air conditioned offices. We work hard and more often than not longer than six hours. It’s impossible to go back to our rooms in time, freshen up, change clothes and then cook.”
His colleague Anis Ahmed informed that before the pandemic, his group of five-six friends went to any mosque close by, had food and returned home. “This year has been tough. We’ve had to rely on kind-hearted people,” he said.
The fact that mosques are not offering iftar this Ramadan has surprised most. Robiullah Ismail from Bangladesh, who works in a transport company and part time as a cleaner, said, “Before the pandemic, every year I went to Qaboos Mosque in Ruwi for iftar. However this year, there is nothing. I understand that there were no iftars in mosques the last few years to prevent crowding and public gatherings. But now when things are fine, then why are we deprived of this? I asked my friends in Amerat, Ghubra and Seeb. Apparently, no mosque in any part of the city is providing iftar.”
However, some private companies are offering iftar meals, a few on a daily basis. Organisers of these public iftars are overwhelmed on occasions when hundreds of fasting people turn up.
Waiting in line to enter a public iftar organised by a private company, Rehman Malik said, “With no mosques providing iftar, fasting people rush to any place serving food.”
An imam of a private mosque in Ruwi said he was told by his employer not to arrange iftar meals; only serve water, dates and laban instead. “When the big mosques are not providing food, smaller ones like ours are reluctant as it would mean handling big crowds, which can get out of control.”
Malabar Gold has been arranging public iftars in Ruwi for over 500 people this Ramadan. But the crowd is getting bigger every day. Najeeb K, Regional Head – Oman, Malabar Gold and Diamonds, said, “Around 125,000 iftar meals will be distributed as part of this year’s Ramadan CSR initiatives across the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Kuwait, Malaysia, Singapore and the USA.”
In Oman, the company’s iftar meal distribution programme is mainly focused in the Ruwi area.