Muslim community plans to celebrate Eid al-Adha virtually amid COVID-19 pandemic

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Celebrations for one of the holiest days on the Islamic calendar will look much different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Eid al-Adha, also known as the "Feast of Sacrifice," commemorates Prophet Ibrahim's sacrifice of his son to God.

Traditionally, members of the Muslim faith celebrate Eid through communal prayer, sermons, meals and exchanging gifts.

This year, the Islamic Society of Greater Houston is hosting a virtual event online to commemorate Eid, since many mosques in Houston remain closed to the public.

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"People are feeling stressed, but we all need to do what is right for the community at-large to keep, and also help, our healthcare professionals keep this COVID infection under control and have this graph go down instead of upward," said president of the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, Sohail Syed.

Although the change is difficult, Sohail said social distancing and holding services virtually is the right thing to do.

"We have to do what we have to do, and God has permitted us to pray at home in the events where there's a pandemic which is causing human life to be lost. The human life is very, very important," Syed said.

COVID-19 precautions have also taken a toll on the annual hajj pilgrimage, which usually starts before Eid. Typically, up to 2.5 million Muslims participate. This year, only around 1,000 are allowed to participate.

"Everybody is busy and praying, and praying continuously," said Sohail, who has made the pilgrimage twice. "That is an amazing experience that I've had."

Salma Syed usually celebrate Eid with her family at the mosque. This year, her husband and five children plan to observe the day at home since celebrating in person isn't an option and one of her children lives with an autoimmune disease.

"Initially, I think everyone's reaction was 'It's not that big of a deal. I can still kind of socialize. I can have a friend over,' but for us we were just like, we have family members that have health issues and should there be an emergency that we have to go be there with them, we need to make sure that we're being cautious," Salma said.

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