New Delhi: The night of Wednesday marked a sombre Shab-e-Barat in many parts of the country, with Muslims in the national capital observing the auspicious night within the four walls of their homes due to the restrictions in place to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.
Under ordinary circumstances, Shab-e-Barat or ‘the night of forgiveness’ sees community members taking to the streets, illuminating houses and the roads in celebration of what is seen as a blessed night for many. Graveyards, in particular, see heavy footfalls as many assemble there to pray for the departed loved ones.
However, this time around, with the Delhi Police making it clear that the lockdown restrictions are very much in place during the festival night, the streets of the national capital remained largely empty.
Similar sights were witnessed in other parts of the national capital region, with people avoiding stepping out entirely.
“With heavy police presence, people are wary of coming to the graveyard anyway these days. Last night too, no one showed up,” Anees Rahman, caretaker of a graveyard in Gurugram, told ThePrint.
“Many are observing the occasion on 9 April, as opposed to 8 April. But I don’t think people will still show up because everyone wants to be careful in times of coronavirus,” he added.
Shab-e-Barat is observed on the night between day 14 and 15 of Sha’ban — the eighth month of the Islamic calendar, which fell on 8 April this year. However, some mosques in different parts of the country issued circulars stating that they will be observing the occasion on 9 April.
‘A quiet Shab-e-Barat’
The Delhi police put heavy restrictions and patrolling in place on Shab-e-Barat to ensure there isn’t any congregation on the night.
“They shut all the meat shops and other facilities here early evening itself to ensure no one steps out. People stuck by the rules and stayed indoors,” said a resident of Jamia Nagar in Delhi who didn’t wish to be named.
“This is the first time in our entire lives that we are witnessing such a quiet Shab-e-Barat, but it’s for the right reasons,” he added.
Another resident of nearby Shaheen Bagh said no one ventured out and everyone stuck to praying at homes.
“All the shops were closed at 6 pm itself, the masjids also announced repeatedly that no one should step out. There was heavy police presence so no one gathered near the graveyards,” Khurshid Alam told ThePrint.
“Many mosques have announced 9 April as the date of Shab-e-Barat. So it is yet to be seen if people will come out Thursday night or not,” he added.
Appeals from religious leaders
A group of fifteen Muslim clerics and leaders including Mahmood Madani, general secretary of the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Hind, and Zafarul Islam, chairman of the Delhi Minorities Commission, had appealed to the community ahead of the night to stay indoors and worship.
“Muslims should not visit graveyards but pray for their departed relatives while staying at home. We appeal, in particular, to our youth to completely refrain from going out of their homes during this night,” the appeal had said.
A similar appeal was made by the Karnataka Waqf board to suspend all prayers and visits to the graveyard on the occasion of Shab-e-Barat. However, Karnataka, is observing the occasion on the 9 April, according to the official Waqf circular.
Maulana Khalid Rasheed Farangi Mahali, chief of the Islamic Center of India headquartered in Lucknow, also said in a video that Shab-e-Barat will be observed on 9 April in the capital of Uttar Pradesh. “At no cost should anyone visit graveyards or go out of their homes during lockdown,” he said in an advisory.