The Whitehorse mosque has taken precautions to ensure the safety of worshipers during the month of Ramadan in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sami Kadri, a spokesperson for the Yukon Muslim Society, spoke with the News on April 23 about what will be changing for Ramadan celebrations this year. Ramadan — a month of fasting, prayer, reflection and community observed by Muslims — begins on April 24 and concludes on May 24.
“This is not a normal time for Ramadan,” Kadri said.
“We’re striving to live this Ramadan, with full spiritual splendour amongst these limitations.”
Prayers in the Whitehorse mosque have been suspended, including all Ramadan-related services, following the recommendations from the Yukon government.
Kadri explained he is looking to guide the community through educational programs, which would connect people online. The Muslim society is looking into the possibility of live-streaming prayers.
He mentioned that Muslims would be guided to use these types of existing services that are offered already across Canada.
“These spiritual reminders are already available online,” Kadri said.
During Ramadan, most adult Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. The timing is typically from one hour before sunrise to sunset daily. People in the Yukon typically observe either Yukon or Vancouver sunset times, Kadri said.
He said people work as usual during the day and go to a night prayer afterwards. Ramadan night prayers are typically one hour in congregation.
At the end of the day the fasting is broken. People invite others over for a feast, called iftar, to break the fast together. He said this is typically when there would be a big gathering at the mosque.
In Whitehorse, he said there have been between 50 to 60 people attending the daily prayers and meals during Ramadan in years past.
There is a major celebration the morning of May 24 called Eid. People typically gather at 10 a.m. for a prayer, listen to a speech from the imam and celebrate afterwards.
“It would be a bigger gathering,” Kadri said.
He estimated that 90 to 100 people would typically attend the end-of-the-month celebration.
This year, he said it has been recommended to leave the celebrations within households. Kadri advises against inviting anyone to your home who does not already live there in order to limit potential COVID-19 transmission.
He said physical and spiritual well-being is the most important thing and that it is paramount for everyone to follow the recommendations and orders of the territory’s health officials.
“That’s what we focus on and what we keep reminding our community to do,” Kadri said. “There will not be a gathering of people.”
He indicated that families understand and should be limiting celebrations to just their households.
Kadri said this will not be easy; it will be emotional and there are a lot of mixed feelings.
“People are missing the prayer and congregation,” he said.
Kadri wanted to remind everyone that although it will be tough, it will be a good time for spiritual reflections. This can help the community and individuals strengthen their connections with God in this time of crisis, he said.
“We try to circulate this message,” Kadri said.
He said the pandemic is impacting everyone, not just the Muslim community, and everyone should be following the advice of territorial and federal health officials.
Kadri feels the community is getting used to the change.
“It could be the norm for the future,” Kadri said. “Who knows?”
He said that with Ramadan coming during a time of global struggle, Muslims understand that physical distancing is the only viable tool available to combat COVID-19 presently.
“We have to strive to be patient and strive to live this Ramadan with a full spiritual experience,” Kadri said.
He said he prays that with the month’s fasting and worship that everyone in Whitehorse can find safety, and that people love and support each other to the best of their ability.
Contact Gord Fortin at firstname.lastname@example.org