Muslims keep Ramadan spirit after facing a 'different' year

New clothes, delicious food and cheerful decorations are still a part of Kamrul Islam and his family's Eid al-Fitr celebrations this year but the most important part is missing — friends and family.

On what is usually one of the most social days of the year for Muslims, the family would usually have about 100 people over to their house to celebrate as a month of fasting ends, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made for a more isolated Eid this year.

"We are trying to do our best at home," said Naushaba Sheikh, Islam's wife, who spent Saturday cooking to be able to make deliveries to family and friends.

"If you are eating together when you break your fast, you feel good so we are missing that this year.… At least we are healthy and can fast and have food in our house," she said.

"If anything, it has given us more time to reflect on things that are necessary during Ramadan while we are at home." - Kamrul Islam

This year's Ramadan, Islam's holiest month, is being considered one of the most challenging, as nightly communal tarawih prayers held at mosques were not allowed and large iftar dinners with family and friends could not happen.

Muslims across the world had to rely on the internet to pray and socialize with their family and friends, and for Islam, Sheikh and their children, it was no different.

Online prayers

During Ramadan in years past, Islam said there often would be about 200 people who visited the mosque nightly, but this year they're participating in live streamed prayers.

"We have learned to adapt," said Islam. "We need to do this, not for the sake for our community, but the sake of the society as a whole."

Submitted by Kamrul Islam

Islam said the City of St. John's also granted them permission to broadcast the Islamic call to prayer from the mosque, like other municipalities across Canada. 

"It felt jubilant in a way that, yes we are allowed to do this, and our diversity is valued in this city," said Islam. 

Fasting through a pandemic

For Islam's 10-year-old daughter, it will be a Ramadan she won't forget, not just because she fasted through a global pandemic but it also happened to be her first time.

"It [was] a little boring because I can't go to school and talk to my friends and keep my mind off food, but it's better because I am not in school where everyone is eating lunch," said Amreen Islam.

She told CBC News at the beginning of Ramadan that she was nervous about making it all the way through the month, but is proud that she did.

Submitted by Kamrul Islam

"It went really good," she said, also mentioning she's looking forward to next year when things might not be so different.

Her thoughts were echoed by her 17-year-old brother, Ayman Islam who also was missing a daily routine to take his mind off his stomach. 

"If I am at school or out with my friends, I am not really thinking about what is in my fridge at home," he chuckled.

Ramadan spirit stands up to COVID-19

Islam's family will be celebrating with their double bubble Sunday and are preparing for greetings to be called out from friends standing a distance away on the sidewalk.

There also will be lots of food, gift exchanges and plenty of memories made.

Kamrul Islam

"It was different but it was good," said Sheikh, reflecting on the past month.

Although it was a "different" year, Islam said COVID-19 did not change the essence of Ramadan as a time for self-reflection and self-discipline, along with giving and thinking about others.

"Spiritually it hasn't changed," he said.

"If anything, it has given us more time to reflect on things that are necessary during Ramadan while we are at home."

Submitted by Kamrul Islam

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