(TMU) – In an incredible sign of the times in which we live, an IKEA in Germany gave the local Muslim community permission to use its massive parking lot to hold a huge socially-distanced prayer that involved hundreds of worshippers celebrating “Eid”, the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
In stunning drone footage from the Sunday, May 24 gathering in the city of Wetzlar, near Frankfurt, masses of Muslims can be seen praying together while maintaining a safe distance, using the lanes and parking spaces of the lot to ensure that each person had their own dedicated area.
As the coronavirus outbreak continues its spread across the world, religious communities have been placed in the often-uncomfortable dilemma of honoring their faith while also respecting the strict quarantine measures, countrywide lockdowns, and physical distancing orders given by governments.
VIDEO: Hundreds of Muslims gather at an IKEA parking lot in the 🇩🇪 German city of Wetzlar for socially distanced Eid al-Fitr prayers, to mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan pic.twitter.com/qG7hmibd0F
— AFP news agency (@AFP) May 26, 2020
Eid al-Fitr is one of the most important Islamic holidays and a joyful occasion marked by gift-giving, charity (zakat), and enjoying good food with friends, family, and neighbors.
However, for millions of Muslims all over the world hoping to celebrate the holiday, the need to practice social distancing has prevented large groups from congregating in their mosques or in other areas whether they could gather and pray.
This all forced the Muslim community in Wetzlar to think outside of the box.
After a bit of brainstorming, the Islamic Community Milli Goruş (IGMG) decided to simply approach their local Ikea to request that they use the parking lot, which wasn’t seeing much action due to the lockdown.
Speaking to the BBC, mosque leader Kadir Terzi explained that he had his doubts before approaching the store to make the request. He explained:
“But the store manager didn’t hesitate for a second and said ‘yes, you can pray’. I was surprised and happy at the same time.”
The event was especially poignant due to the isolation his community have been plunged in for this Ramadan, which prevented the community and families from gathering to break their fast and organize charitable work. He added:
“It was a completely different Ramadan month, without contacts, without visits and without breaking the fast together.”
Hiermit bedanken wir uns ausdrücklich bei der Polizei Wetzlar, Ordnungsamt Wetzlar, der Markleitung von IKEA Wetzlar und…
As a result of the event, the group has been hailed across the globe for conducting an exemplary prayer session – and the group is thanking the local community for ensuring its success.
In a statement, the mosque thanked various members of the public. They said:
“We would like to thank the Wetzlar police, the Wetzlar public order office, Ikea Wetzlar management, brothers, and all who contributed to making this extraordinary holiday prayer possible.”
In a separate statement, the mosque added:
“We congratulate all the Islamic world and the Muslims living in the world with our sincere wishes and wish our Lord to bring you many more holidays.
“We have done holiday prayer as a nation in the open air with 700 people. May my Lord always keep our unity and solidarity.”
Social media users both Muslim and non-Muslim alike have praised the event.
One person on Facebook wrote:
“What a beautiful view and what a beautiful alternative.”
While another user said:
“This makes me happy. I know some of my religious friends struggled with the lack of close physical connections during ramadan, so it’s beautiful to see a community come together in a safe way.”
For some religious leaders such as Pope Francis, weekly services were moved online to give practicing Catholics an option to tune while also observing social distances. Other faith community leaders have offered drive-in Sunday services, where congregants can remain in their vehicles and tune into services via radio. And most recently, a priest in the Detroit area used a squirt gun to shoot holy water at passing cars during a drive-thru Easter blessing.
Muslims across the world have also honored measures meant to curb the pandemic – due in no small part to the fact that centuries ago, no less a figure than the revered prophet and founder of Islam was cited as speaking on the topic of how to conduct oneself when dealing with a plague.
“If you hear of an outbreak or a plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place,” the Prophet Muhammad advises Muslims according to Sahih Al-Bukhari in the Hadith — a record of sayings attributed to the prophet that is considered of high scriptural importance in addition to the Quran.