Nfld. & Labrador

'Tough times will pass': Ramadan off to a lonely but hopeful start in St. John's

The holiest month of the Muslim calendar is underway but the mosque in St. John's is still closed. Services will be shifting online until it's safe to congregate again.

Where 300 people would normally gather for prayer, it's empty

Muslims typically attend Ramadan prayers at the Masjid-An-Noor mosque in St. John's, as seen here in this 2018 file photo, but not this year. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The holiest month of the Muslim calendar is underway but the mosque in St. John's is still closed.

About 300 people would normally be gathering at the Masjid-al-Noor mosque on Thursday night for the first day of Ramadan, but this year the building will be empty except for the imam leading the prayers.

At night, they would break fasting with a crowd in their houses as the sun sets. Instead, they're doing it alone.

"It is a big challenge," said Mansoor Pirzada, president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. "Quite a few people have big families, but then again because of the pandemic we have advised our community members … no invitations, just stay home, do whatever you need to do with your own families."

The crowds usually grow as each of the 30 days of Ramadan passes by. Families fill the Mosque at 10:30 each night for prayers and then break bread together.

"But unfortunately this is not going to happen this year."

Dr. Mansoor Pirzada, seen here in a file photo from 2019, is the president of the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. (Krissy Holmes/CBC)

Instead, the association has consulted with some of the technology experts in the congregation to stream the services online.

The local Muslim association has a tradition of giving during Ramadan, which has also been affected by the COVID-19 virus.

They would normally be bringing donations of food and money to people in the community who need a helping hand. Now, it has to be done differently.

The association has been collecting donations on its website and doing contactless delivery for food supplies to those in need.

Newfoundland and Labrador went five consecutive days without any new cases of COVID-19 leading up to the first day of Ramadan, which makes Pirzada hopeful they can get back to normal soon, and switch everything back from online to in-person.

"The tough times will pass. Hopefully, it seems like we are over the hill and we can see the bright horizon. Hopefully it will be sooner than later."

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