Iraqis are preparing to observe Ramadan during a new wave of the coronavirus pandemic and an economic crisis.
The country reported 8,331 cases on Wednesday, the highest number of daily infections since the outbreak began.
With healthcare infrastructure in Iraq devastated by years of war, the health authorities are struggling to contain the virus.
They say people are failing to comply with social distancing regulations, and the government has blamed the public for the rise in cases and has threatened impose stricter measures.
The Arab nation of about 40 million people is in the throes of a severe financial crisis resulting from the impact of plummeting oil prices on its oil-dependent economy.
The national poverty rate soared last year to 31.7 per cent, up from 20 per cent in 2018. It is expected to increase and become more apparent during Ramadan, because the economy usually contracts during the holy month when businesses scale back their activities.
Here’s everything you need to know about Ramadan 2021 in Iraq:
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar. It is believed to be the month the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Mohammed.
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month, which is typically of 29 or 30 days’ duration.
As well as abstaining from food and drink, Ramadan is a time when Muslims strengthen their faith through prayer and increased recitation of the Quran.
When does Ramadan begin?
Unlike many countries in the region, it is uncommon for all Iraqis start Ramadan on the same day as is the case with the start of each month in lunar or Hijri calendar.
The country’s Shiite majority are likely to start the holy month on April 14, after announcements from the most senior Shiite clerics such as Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani.
For Iraq’s Sunni population, Ramadan may commence on either on April 12 or 13 in accordance with what the Sunni Endowment Office announces.
The dates will ultimately be determined by each sect’s religious authority, because of the different moon-sighting techniques that some Shiites and Sunnis follow. Many Shiites prefer to see the crescent with their naked eye, while Sunnis often use telescopes or follow Saudi Arabia’s lead.
What are the Covid-19 rules in Iraq during Ramadan?
The Iraqi government has yet to declare the restrictions during Ramadan, but new measures are expected to be put in place as cases continue to rise.
A partial lockdown from 9pm to 5am is in place.
Mosques, restaurants and shopping malls are allowed to open.
Last year, Ramadan started a few weeks after the Iraqi authorities imposed full nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the virus.
Measures were eased during the holy month. Residents were allowed to move freely between 6am and 7pm, but mosques, restaurants, shopping malls and parks were kept closed.
What are the rules for businesses during Ramadan?
With the exception of a few licensed venues, restaurants and cafes are not allowed to operate during fasting hours. Liquor stores and bars are not allowed to open for the whole month.
Working hours in government offices will be shortened by at least one hour.
Are charity drives in Iraq operational this year?
Like last year, charity banquets are not allowed, but people and organisations will be permitted to distribute Ramadan packages to poor families in different districts.
It will be difficult for the government to restrict those who plan to throw street charity iftars, especially in heavily populated areas or in those that include shrines.
What etiquette should I follow if I’m not fasting this Ramadan?
Food and drink must not be consumed in public areas during the holy month.