Ramzan, the Islamic month of prayers and fasting, will begin on Saturday in India, this time amid an unprecedented nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus, PTI reported. Some prominent clerics said on Friday that the moon had been sighted.

Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid Syed Ahmed Bukhari and Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri mosque in Delhi, Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, made the announcement. They appealed to the Muslim community to perform all rituals at home, while adhering to social distancing norms.

“I appeal to all, do not invite your neighbours to your house to offer prayers during Ramzan,” Bukhari said, according to ANI. “Ensure, there are not more than three people in one room even while offering prayers with family. Covid-19 will end only when we will unite.”

Salahuddin Mohammed Ayub, the chief qazi of the Tamil Nadu government, told the administration in a letter that the moon had been sighted at various places in Chennai, and therefore, Ramzan would begin from Saturday, ANI reported. In Kerala and some parts of Karnataka, the moon was sighted on Thursday.

All imams, ulema and Muslim organisations in the country have unanimously decided that during Ramzan, Muslims will not congregate in mosques and religious places, PTI reported. Instead, rituals like Iftaar, in which they break the fast, will be performed at home.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished people Ramzan Mubarak. “I pray for everyone’s safety, well-being and prosperity,” Modi tweeted. “May this Holy Month bring with it abundance of kindness, harmony and compassion. May we achieve a decisive victory in the ongoing battle against Covid-19 and create a healthier planet.”

Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said he has spoken to state waqf board officials, social and religious leaders, imams on adherence to the lockdown during Ramzan. Naqvi expressed confidence that this would be followed.

India has so far reported 23,452 cases of the coronavirus, including 723 deaths, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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