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

Nurses at the Cowichan District Hospital are thanking the community for following the health protocols during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Pictured from left are nurses Jacqueline Kendall, Melissa Bustard and Heidi Ferris. (Robert Barron/Citizen)
Pandemic year like no other, Cowichan nurses say

May 10-16 is National Nursing Week

Island Health’s new Wellness and Recovery Centre at 5878 York Rd. is now planned to be open in the fall. (File photo)
Wellness and Recovery Centre now to open in the fall

Three community dialogues scheduled for May

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data showing new cases by local health area for the week of May 2-8. (BCCDC image)
Vancouver Island COVID-19 local case counts the lowest they’ve been all year

On some areas of Island, more than 60 per cent of adults have received a vaccine dose

A nurse gets a swab ready to perform a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Island’s daily COVID-19 case count drops below 10 for just the second time in 2021

Province reports 8 new COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island Wednesday

Before you take on a pet, make sure you want to have it for life. (Sarah Simpson/Citizen)
Editorial: A pet is a lifetime commitment

Tons of people are getting pets during the pandemic, some for the first time

Prince Rupert was one of the first B.C. communities targeted for mass vaccination after a steep rise in infections. Grey area marks community-wide vaccine distribution. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. tracks big drop in COVID-19 infections after vaccination

Prince Rupert, Indigenous communities show improvement

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking on a remote forest road in Naramata on May 10. (Submitted)
Kamloops brothers identified as pair found dead near Penticton

The bodies of Carlo and Erick Fryer were discovered by a local couple walking

Municipal governments around B.C. have emergency authority to conduct meetings online, use mail voting and spend reserve funds on operation expenses. (Penticton Western News)
Online council meetings, mail-in voting option to be extended in B.C.

Proposed law makes municipal COVID-19 exceptions permanent

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

A nurse prepares a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Kelowna on Tuesday, March 16. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press)
British Columbians aged 20+ can book for vaccine Saturday, those 18+ on Sunday

‘We are also actively working to to incorporate the ages 12 to 17 into our immunization program’

The AstraZeneca-Oxford University vaccine. (AP/Eranga Jayawardena)
2nd person in B.C. diagnosed with rare blood clotting after AstraZeneca vaccine

The man, in his 40s, is currently receiving care at a hospital in the Fraser Health region

Canada’s demo Hornet soars over the Strait of Georgia near Comox. The F-18 demo team is returning to the Valley for their annual spring training. Photo by Sgt. Robert Bottrill/DND
F-18 flight demo team returning to Vancouver Island for spring training

The team will be in the Comox Valley area from May 16 to 24

Saanich police and a coroner investigated a fatal crash in the 5200-block of West Saanich Road on Feb. 4, 2021. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Police determine speed, impairment not factors in fatal Greater Victoria crash

Driver who died veered across centre line into oncoming traffic for unknown reason, police say

Ladysmith RCMP safely escorted the black bear to the woods near Ladysmith Cemetary. (Town of Ladysmith/Facebook photo)
Bow-legged bear returns to Ladysmith, has an appointment with the vet

Brown Drive Park closed as conservation officers search for her after she returned from relocation

Most Read