Ramadan, a month of fasting and reflecting observed by billions of Muslims each year, ended Sunday with Eid al-Fitr, a celebratory feast that normally sees friends and family belonging to the faith coming together to break bread and pray.
But this year, Sunday’s celebrations looked a lot different.
“Everything changed with Covid-19,” said Nazim Awan, chair of the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife, told NNSL Media in a recent interview.
Normally, Muslims come together in close-quarters to celebrate the end of Ramadan – observers fast from sunrise to sunset every day.
But with strict physical distancing requirements still in place for indoor and outdoor gatherings, that wasn’t a possibility this year.
Instead, the Islamic Centre of Yellowknife held an Eid drive-thru feast for members at the site of what will soon become the Centre’s new mosque, according to its public Facebook page, Sweets and goody bags were handed out to families by Yellowknife Islamic Centre volunteers.
Sunday’s re-imagining of a scared celebration is just one of the ways Muslim members of the community have had to adapt longstanding Ramadan rituals in a post-Covid-19 world.
“During Ramadan, family, friends, and community members get together. This year we cannot do anything normal due to the restrictions of Covid-19,” said Awan.
The Yellowknife Islamic Society closed regular Friday prayer during the pandemic.
“We decided to become part of the solution; to do what we could do to mitigate the risks.
We encouraged our members to pray at home; to pray with family at home,” continued Awan.
The Islamic Centre of Yellowknife and its members saw some silver linings in the pandemic and the restrictions it brought on, he added.
Community members in Yellowknife are being encouraged to access online learning tools.
“People were using the time to refresh their knowledge on Islam, where they can continuously gain knowledge on how they can benefit from Ramadan and what they could adopt it in their daily routine.
Yellowknife Islamic Centre is part of the Islamic Society of North America-Canada (ISNA-Canada). ISNA-Canada has been offering online educational tools to Muslim residents North of 60.
On the Yellowknife Islamic Centre’s Facebook page, organizers regularly posted prayers to the page over the month-long period of fasting – from sunrise to sunset – and reflection.
Facebook Live exchanges, WhatsApp groups and online forums have also been helping people stay connected and educated, said Awan.
Community and charity are key pillars during Ramadan, and the Islamic faith in general. Members must donate at least $10 to worthy causes around town.
Awan said this year’s Covid-19 interrupted Ramadan hasn’t been easy.
“People have been very stressed; very heartbroken. All our lives during Ramadan, we’ve gone to the mosques,” said Awan.
“It’s been very difficult and people struggled to cope with that. People are praying and waiting for the virus to go away. People want to go back to work and back to a normal life.”
Virus throws wrench in plans for new mosque
“Covid-19 has also hit the construction of the mosque hard,” said Awan.
He hopes to start work again at the new site, located on Franklin Avenue near the Yellowknife Racquet Club, this summer.
“We’re assessing the situation,” he said.