Eid al-Adha at a distance: Muslims in Vancouver find new ways to mark occasion amid COVID-19
Holiday known for large prayer gatherings, but celebrations are different this year
One of the most significant celebrations of the Islamic calendar, Eid al-Adha is normally marked with prayer at the start of the four-day festival, which began on Thursday evening and ends on Monday evening.
This year however, COVID-19 protocol has limited mass gatherings in many places, including Canada.
In Vancouver, the Al Masjid Al Jamia mosque is limited to 50 people inside, with a few spilling onto the front sidewalk area. Hand sanitizer and masks are available for anyone who wants to pray inside.
"We may not like it, but it's for the safety of the people to stay apart," said Abdi Halim, who prayed inside the mosque on Friday.
"It's really different to not hug each other and shake each other's hands. But we can still feel the same love, and I am really thankful that the mosque is open and for the B.C. government to allow it to be open."
The festival coincides with Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the holiest city for Muslims.
Other Eid events were held in Vancouver on Friday, one of them led by University of British Columbia lecturer Seemi Ghazi, who teaches Muslim feminist theology.
"Our normal ways of celebrating aren't there. I often go to the convention centre downtown and [am] with thousands of people from all over the world. There is something beautiful about that, but we wanted to create something in person that would be a bit more intimate. We wanted to put an emphasis on our spiritual space."
Ghazi recited the Takbir, a chant of glorification, and offered a sermon — which isn't common in traditional mosques — in an open field with friends and family who align with the same common values.
"People are praying in their own bubble. It was very natural."
The UBC Muslim Students' Association also held a prayer event on the Vancouver campus.
"We never expected this would happen, but we are so united and we come together in solidarity during prayer," said Aida Sanjush, who works with the student association.
"This was one of the most beautiful Eid prayers we ever had. It was in an open field and the weather was really great, too."
With files from Nadia Jannif