Muslims from across Newfoundland and Labrador came together in St. John's Saturday to celebrate Eid-al-Adha, also known as the Festival of Sacrifice.
The Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador organized a morning prayer and afternoon activities at the Techniplex sports complex near Quidi Vidi Lake.
The association's president, Syed Pirzada, is happy to see the gathering go ahead after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Everybody is happy. Our community is coming together," Pirzada told CBC News on Saturday. "A lot of people are travelling from different parts of the island."
Together with Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month Ramadan, Eid-al-Adha is one of the two biggest Muslim celebrations.
It's celebrated to honour Prophet Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son in order to prove his faith to God. It also marks the end of the yearly Islamic pilgrimage, called hajj, to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, which is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
"In old days, it used to be a big hardship because people would actually walk in from different cities. And some people would go on camels and cross the deserts," said Pirzada.
"It happens once a year but for people, it's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. ... Some people save money throughout their life to perform this pilgrimage."
For those who don't make the journey and instead celebrate at home, the Eid-al-Adha festivities include prayers, animal sacrifices, food and family visits.
For this year's Eid-al-Adha, said Pirzada, a "huge" congregation was expected. He estimates that about 3,000 people took part in the celebrations in the province, many of which were at the Techniplex on Saturday morning to pray.
A safe environment
After a forced two-year hiatus due to COVID-19, Pirzada said it was important to make the celebration a safe and positive event.
"Being the sole representative of Muslims of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is our duty and our obligation to make such arrangements so that people can perform their rituals in a safe environment," he said.
In the afternoon, the Muslim Association offered activities such as bouncy castles for children and food for community members — something that couldn't have been managed without the help of volunteers who had spent Friday night decorating the venue, said Pirzada.
"Initially, we used to have this event in our own mosque, but our community has grown tremendously," he said, adding that the community is grateful to be able to use the Techniplex complex.
Looking ahead, Pirzada said his association is working to get ciry permits so build its own space for large gatherings and prayers, in addition to the mosque in St. John's.
"There's no way we can accommodate this many people in our own mosque. So, we want to have our own big ... place where we can accommodate our own people," he said.
"When people are moving to Newfoundland, they want to know whether we have the facility for their children. We have the facility for them to come, and pray and to feel safe, feel happy."