Looser restrictions, new registration system lets N.L. Muslims reconnect for Ramadan

·2 min read
Markings to ensure physical distancing have been put in place at the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St. John's since the onset of the pandemic.  (Submitted by the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador - image credit)
Markings to ensure physical distancing have been put in place at the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St. John's since the onset of the pandemic. (Submitted by the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador - image credit)
Markings to ensure physical distancing have been put in place at the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St. John's since the onset of the pandemic.
Markings to ensure physical distancing have been put in place at the Masjid-an-Noor mosque in St. John's since the onset of the pandemic. (Submitted by the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador)

This is the first week of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Muslim calendar, and starting at dawn many began their practice of daily fasting until sunset.

For the second year running, however, Muslims in Newfoundland and Labrador will have to celebrate Ramadan a little differently, due to the continued restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mansoor Pirzada, the president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, said the pandemic hasn't deterred members from celebrating Ramadan however they can.

"We believe that you have to be at your best behaviour; not with just your own community, with everyone and your neighbours, and everybody is welcome," he said in an interview with the St. John's Morning Show.

Aside from the personal discipline required in fasting, he said, it's also a time to focus on the community.

"This is spiritually the most sacred month for all of us."

Before Ramadan began, Pirzada said, the association had to take measures to assure that it could be celebrated safely, given the concerns of the ongoing pandemic.

"According to the COVID guidelines provided, we meet with the health authorities on a regular basis," said Pirzada.

"We have to abide by the COVID guidelines, so we have prepared for people who want to come for prayer at night that they have to register online."

According to Pirzada, the mosque can accommodate 50 people at a time, and while online registration for evening prayers will help the association keep safety a priority, he said the amount of people wanting to register shows the community is eager to come together.

Dr. Mansoor Pirzada is the president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Dr. Mansoor Pirzada is the president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador.(Krissy Holmes/CBC)

"[Registration] starts at five o'clock in the morning, and within no time all the seats are gone," he said. "So that shows us that people are very driven to come to the mosque."

A time for community outreach

While the pandemic continues to pose a challenge, Pirzada said the fact that this isn't the first time they've celebrated amidst the pandemic has given the community some insight.

"Last year we couldn't do anything except provide some foodstuffs to the community members at their home," Pirzada said.

"But this year at least, people are coming to the mosque to pray."

Pirzada said they know which members of their community are in need, and try to do everything they can to come together and help where they can.

"During this month we try to provide different things for [those in need]," he said.

"That's how we try to connect, with not only the community to try to serve them, but also to see if they need anything else besides the food."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador