Ivany Atina Arbi, Jakarta – Indonesia's second largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah, has issued a circular advising Muslims to perform tarawih (a night prayer during the fasting month of Ramadan) at home should the COVID-19 pandemic show no sign of improving in the coming month.
The organization had also suggested that the Idul Fitri prayers, usually performed in congregations at mosques or in open fields to mark the end of Ramadan, should not be held during the health crisis.
This year's Ramadan is to start on April 23 and end on May 23.
Muhammadiyah highlighted in the letter that such prayers were not obligatory, but rather sunnah (a voluntary act of worship).
"If the COVID-19 situation remains [until the end of Ramadan], the string of events marking the Idul Fitri festivity shall not be organized, including the mudik [exodus]," according to the circular signed by members of the Muhammadiyah central executive board's lawmaking and reform councils on March 21.
The suggestion came a week after President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo called on all Indonesians to engage in social distancing, also known as physical distancing, by working, studying and worshipping at home to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Islamic organization reiterated that daily prayers should be done by Muslims at home rather than at mosques. "The Friday prayer can also be replaced with dzuhur [midday prayer] at home."
Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), the largest Muslim organization in Indonesia, had also suggested Muslims living in COVID-19 red zones to temporarily stop engaging in mass prayers at mosques to flatten the infection curve.
"It's prohibited to perform mass prayers in red zones," NU executive council said as quoted by nu.or.id.
The government has marked most areas across Java Island as COVID-19 red zones after than 50 positive cases were recorded. Jakarta is the hardest-hit region with 747 cases recorded as of Tuesday.
In total, Indonesia has reported 1,528 confirmed COVID-19-positive cases with 136 fatalities.