Praying in the streets: Muslims mark end of Ramadan

Millions of Russian Muslims are celebrating Eid ul-Fitr on Tuesday, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan. In Moscow and St. Petersburg mosques were not able to accommodate all worshippers, so people poured into streets and lanes.

See photo report about the celebration in RT Galleries.

The holiday, which is better known as Uraza-Bayram in Russia, offers the faithful space to reflect on daily responsibilities and find the strength to face them, Ravil Gainutdin, the chair of the Russian Council of Muftis, said.

“We have new challenges ahead, which we must overcome firmly, patiently and with dignity,” he suggested.

The celebration caused some disruption of normal life in a few larger Russian cities, which have had trouble keeping pace with the rapid growth in their Muslim populations, leaving them without enough mosques to accommodate the faithful. The solution has been to allow the people to pray right outside in the street, despite the disapproval of some residents.

Moscow’s mosques hosted 90,000 worshipers, with some 50,000 gathering in the biggest one in the city’s center. This year, Moscow’s municipal authorities opened a large exhibition center for the Muslims to visit and pray, but the novelty proved not as popular as had been hoped. Still, thousands of worshippers who found no room inside prayed around the mosques, laying down their mats on the concrete.

The situation in St. Petersburg developed in a similar fashion, with different sources reporting between 20,000 and 70,000 mosque visitors. Again, some of the worshippers prayed under the sky.

Despite some traffic jams caused by the praying crowds, no serious inconvenience was reported. Most of the non-Muslims in the streets told journalists that their fellow citizens and visiting foreigners have the right to properly celebrate according to their religion and that the discomfort it causes is minor and passing.

Eid ul-Fitr is one of the most important holidays for Muslims. The festivity ends the month-long fast which all faithful able-bodied Muslims have to observe. It includes mass prayers, family feasts, distribution of food and money to those in need, visiting of relatives and friends and paying respects at the graves of ancestors.