A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

A volunteer disinfects a historical Mohabat Khan mosque ahead of the upcoming Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, in Peshawar, Pakistan, Friday, April 9, 2021. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad)

For Canadian Muslims, second pandemic Ramadan is a time of hope and sadness

Many members of the association are trying to find ways ‘to help people stay connected to one another’

Bilal Abdul Kader, president and founder of the As-Salam mosque in downtown Montreal, said his mosque has been serving meals during the holy month of Ramadan for 15 years.

The Iftar evening meal, when Muslims break the daily Ramadan fast, has offered a chance for mosque members to come together and share food with the broader community and people in need, he said in a recent interview.

Iftar “has a religious aspect, a social dimension, and of course, a personal sense, because when Muslims share their meals with someone else, they get double the reward of the fast itself,” Abdul Kader said.

But this year, like the year before, Iftar will be a takeaway meal at the As-Salam mosque because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With the second Ramadan of the pandemic likely beginning on Tuesday, Canadian Muslims say they’re approaching the holiest time of the year with a mixture of sadness and hope.

Ramadan is normally a time for self-improvement, for getting together with others to pray and for a “joyous sharing” of meals, Boufeldja Benabdallah, co-founder and spokesman of the Islamic Cultural Centre in Quebec City, said in a recent interview.

Normally, he said, Muslims do supplemental prayers that can last until 11 p.m. during the holy month. That likely won’t be possible this year due to government-imposed measures intended to contain the spread of the virus.

A curfew is in place in Quebec City, Montreal and several other cities in the province, requiring residents to stay home between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. The measure makes it impossible for Muslims to be inside a mosque for three of the five daily prayers.

Group prayer is important for Muslims, Benabdallah said.

“It’s important to pray together, because God told us he created us to be together.” Those group prayers can’t be done remotely, he explained, adding that Muslims will have to pray by themselves or the people they live with.

Some aspects of the religious ceremonies can be moved online, he said, adding that some sermons and religious discussions will be conducted through the Zoom platform. His organization is also trying to find ways to “do good from a distance.”

“It’s not completely lost, but it’s sad,” Benabdallah said. “We can discover other ways to experience Ramadan, but we can’t share a glass of milk and a date with someone else, except the family — that’s punishing, that’s very difficult.”

In Quebec’s red zones, like Montreal and Quebec City, places of worship have their capacity limited to 25 people. In other parts of the country, like Ontario and Alberta, places of worship are limited to 15 per cent capacity.

That will make things very different from the usual Ramadan according to Memona Hossain, a spokeswoman for the Muslim Association of Canada.

“This is the time when the mosque is buzzing, and it’s not just buzzing for a couple of hours, it’s buzzing right through the night,” she said. “Late into the night, the mosque is filled with parents and children; people are praying together, eating together, all of these things, so people really, really miss that.”

Many members of the association are trying to find ways “to help people stay connected to one another as a community, as well as to the mosque, and feel that spiritual connection during the month of Ramadan,” she said.

Those ways, she said, range from activities for children and online religious events, to food donations and blood drives. “The creativity has been phenomenal,” she said.

In Edmonton and Calgary, mosques will broadcast the call to prayer from their loudspeakers once a day during the holy month.

One of them is the Al Rashid mosque in Edmonton. Noor Al-Henedy, the mosque’s communications and public relations director, said many of the traditional Ramadan activities will move online this year and with warmer weather, some people are praying together outside.

On Saturdays and Sundays during the month, the mosque plans to deliver meals to 500 people, particularly seniors. She said it’s a way to check in on people who may have a harder time participating in online activities.

“They have been the most isolated through this pandemic, considering that they are the most vulnerable,” she said.

But while many are focusing on the positive, there is also frustration.

In Montreal, Abdul Kader said he doesn’t understand why the Quebec government has changed capacity restrictions for places of worship multiple times in recent weeks.

In mid-March, the provincial government said places of worship would be allowed to welcome 25 people, up from 10, before changing the limit to 250 people. Less than two weeks later, that number was reduced to 25.

He said he also doesn’t understand why the capacity is the same no matter the size of the building.

“We don’t have much choice except praying for people, praying for the vaccination to move faster so every vulnerable person gets two doses to be protected,” Abdul Kader said.

READ MORE: Ramadan in a pandemic: How COVID-19 is affecting Islam’s holy month in B.C.

———

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Jacob Serebrin, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Just Posted

File photo
Paramedic training returning to Castlegar

Emergency Medical Responder and Primary Care Paramedic training to take place in Castlegar

Emerson Potter, a Grade 3 student at Blewett Elementary, advocated for changes to help him use his wheelchair on the school grounds. He’s seen here with his parents Lindsay Thompson and Keith Potter, and Blewett principal Tim Mushumanski (right). Photo: Tyler Harper
‘Pretty awesome’: Nelson-area student advocates for school to improve outdoor accessibility

Emerson Potter, who lives with cerebral palsy, had trouble moving around Blewett Elementary’s grounds

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)
One death, 60 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

The death is connected to the outbreak at Spring Valley long-term care in Kelowna

People will be strapping on the inline skates in Castlegar this summer. Photo: Jennifer Small
Castlegar Skating Club offers new summer inline program

New program will let ice skaters continue their training through the summer

Portions of the Skattebo Reach Trail are being improved. Photo: Betsy Kline
Skattebo Reach Trail near Castlegar to become cycle friendly

Trail improvements geared towards cyclists being done in 2021

From the left: Laura Greaves, Kyle Whyte and Steve Bigelow rescued a poisoned eagle Sunday, May 9. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
West Kootenay residents, Conservation Service Officer save poisoned eagle

CSO Kyle Bueckert released the eagle into the wild Thursday, May 13

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam listens to a question during a news conference, in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Restrictions will lift once 75% of Canadians get 1 shot and 20% are fully immunized, feds say

Federal health officials are laying out their vision of what life could look like after most Canadians are vaccinated against COVID-19

Police are at Ecole Mount Prevost Elementary but the students have been evacuated. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Gardener finds buried explosives, sparking evacuation of Cowichan school

Students removed from school in an ‘abundance of caution’

A COVID-19 patient receives oxygen outside a hospital in Jammu, India, Wednesday, May 12, 2021. (AP/Channi Anand)
B.C. donates $500K to Red Cross COVID-19 relief efforts in India

The money will provide oxygen cylinders and ambulances for patients in communities grappling with the virus

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Superintendent Aaron Paradis, community services officer with the Surrey RCMP, during a media availability about a recent drug bust in Port Coquitlam. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
Police seize 13 million ‘potentially fatal doses’ of pure fentanyl at B.C. drug lab

The evidence was seized at large, illicit drug manufacturing site in Port Coquitlam

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth debates the province’s latest measure to control crime, March 10, 2021. The legislation allows police to impound vehicles used to transport weapons and further restricts sale of vehicle and body armour. (B.C. legislature video)
B.C. seeking ways to ‘name and shame’ gangsters, minister says

Mike Farnworth appeals to family members to talk to police

Jonathan Prest had to climb way up to the top of a dead red cedar tree to rescue a terrified cat, but he made it up and down successfully. (Facebook photos)
Tree cutter rescues cat stuck 100 feet up a dead and dried-out cedar

Jonathan Prest put himself in extreme peril to get a terrified cat out of a dangerous situation

The Greater Victoria School District continues to face backlash over its wording and approach to Indigenous learners in its 2021-2022 budget talks. (Black Press Media file photo)
School district’s approach to Indigenous learners leaves Victoria teachers ‘disgusted’

Backlash grows over ‘pattern of colonial thinking permeating the leadership’

Most Read