Winnipeg family creates mosque at home for Ramadan

For the second year in a row, Ramadan will be celebrated during a global pandemic. The Elbakri family in Winnipeg will be celebrating at home, and have created a miniature mosque in a spare room.

The Elbakri kids feel 'accomplished' after fasting for the month of Ramadan

Mei Elbakri, 13; Sena Elbakri, 17; Abdulghani Elbakri, 11, and Tameem Elbakri, 6, are celebrating Ramadan at home this year. The festivities start Monday night. (John Einarson/CBC)

Last year the Elbakri family celebrated Ramadan during a pandemic. Usually they'd celebrate with their community, often going to the mosque to break their daily fasts, and celebrate Eid — the last day of Ramadan. 

With everything closed last year, the family turned to the next best thing.

"We built our own mini mosque in our house because the mosques were closed due to COVID," said Abdulghani Elbakri, who is 11 years old. 

With some cardboard, curtains, prayer mats and a copy of the Qur'an, together the family created their own little mosque in a spare room. 

The Elbakri family created their own mosque at home for the month of Ramadan. (Sena Elbakri)

"We cut out a piece of cardboard to resemble a dome shape … we coloured the bottom all together," said 13-year-old Mei Elbakri. 

"We put down some prayer mats … we had two chairs and we had the Qur'an on a table next to it, it was a really nice chill area. I'd just go there all the time and just sit down and relax." 

'Still full of spirituality, full of blessing'

Members of the Muslim community in Winnipeg didn't expect to celebrate a second Ramadan during a pandemic. 

"I think last year kind of prepared us for this, but we were hoping it wouldn't happen again. But, you know, the month is still full of spirituality, full of blessing," said Shahina Siddiqui, president of the Islamic Social Services Association. 

"I think we are trying our best to make the most of it, especially because Ramadan is a month when [the] community gets together."

The fact that Ramadan is being celebrated during a global pandemic that has caused a lot of grief and death is not lost on Siddiqui. She says during this month, Muslims can turn to prayer to help get through these difficult times.

"You ask for forgiveness and ask for healing for all [that] humanity is going through," said Siddiqui. 

Shahina Siddiqui, executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association, said last year prepared the Islamic community for a second Ramadan celebrated during a pandemic. (Lyzaville Sale/CBC)

"This year I think the message that needs to get out to our community is please get your vaccine. The vaccines are halal and the vaccines will not break your fast.

"I am going to go for my vaccine on the first day of Ramadan, I would advise people not to neglect that. When your appointment comes, please take it."

Last month, public health orders changed, allowing religious services to open at limited capacity — meaning mosques in Manitoba would be allowed to let in a limited number of people. Siddiqui says that even with mosques open, praying can be done anywhere. 

Fasting teaches perseverance 

Starting Tuesday, most of the Elbakri kids will start fasting. In the Islamic faith, when children hit puberty, they are encouraged to fast for the month of Ramadan — meaning they don't eat from sunrise to sunset.

When asked what it feels like to make it through a month of fasting, the Elbakri kids unanimously agree, they feel "accomplished." 

The Elbakri family created paper lanterns together to decorate their house with for Ramadan. (Submitted by Sena Elbakri)

"Ramadan teaches you perseverance, like sometimes it gets tough and you're really hungry, you feel really down, but then you're like, 'I'm going to keep going,'" said Mei. 

"You just feel it's a big accomplishment to finish every year."

For Sena, 17, the oldest and most experienced with fasting, she feels a stronger sense of faith at the end of Ramadan. 

"You've started new habits, you've improved yourself, you strengthen your willpower, you've reflected," said Sena. 

"You feel in a sense … refreshed and renewed." 

Abdulghani he recalls a lesson he learned his first year. 

"I fasted the whole day and then I was super hungry. So I inhaled my soup. I ate too fast. I ate too much, and I didn't stop. So after a while, I guess my stomach couldn't hold it and I vomited," said Abdulghani. 

"But the next day I was totally fine and it didn't happen again."

The youngest in the family, Tameem, 6 years old, has done half-day fasts in previous years, which he describes as "fun." This year he says he's going to try to fast an entire day. 

When asked how he's feeling in the days leading up to Radaman, Temeen says, "excited because I like Ramadan."

'We built our own mini mosque in our house'

2 years ago
Duration 2:29
The Elbakri family of Winnipeg created a mosque at home for Ramadan. They didn't expect they would be celebrating a second Ramadan apart from family and friends during the pandemic.