by Beverly Church
For Muslims throughout the world, the month-long celebration of Ramadan begins Thursday evening. Traditions include fasting from sunup to sundown, a special evening prayer and a community-wide celebration at the end of the month, called Eid Al-Fitr.
Like other faith traditions, Muslims are making adjustments this year to their services and celebrations, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fasting and prayer
According to Imam Wahaajuddin Mohammed of the Tawheed Center in Farmington Hills, there are two main acts of worship during Ramadan. The first is fasting, during which all able adults give up food and drink during the day. The second is a special evening prayer after sunset, in addition to the five usual daily prayers.
“The purpose of fasting is so that you become conscious of the Almighty,” said Imam Mohammed. “Eating and drinking are things that we are always allowed to do. Yet in the month of Ramadan, we are giving up those things. You will not know if I am fasting or not — it is something that is just between me and God. When you do that for 30 straight days, (God) is training you (to be) somebody of good character.”
At the end of each day, Muslims gather for a special evening prayer. This year, the evening prayer will be streamed live on YouTube.
“Over the course of 30 days, we recite the entire Qur’an, our holy book,” said Imam Mohammed. “We break it into portions. It is an opportunity for the entire community to hear the entire Qur’an recited in the month because we believe that the revelation of the Qur’an began in the month of Ramadan.”
Although children are not required to fast during Ramadan, some choose to. Waheed Ahmed, who attends the Tawheed Center along with his wife, Shabana, and their three daughters, said his oldest daughter, who is 10, wants to fast this year.
“Humaira is very much interested and I think, since we are all home now, it will be a real encouragement for her,” he said.
YouTube videos proving popular
In the weeks leading up to Ramadan, the Tawheed Center posted special videos on their YouTube site focused on topics such as the rules of fasting and the importance of charity.
“Two weeks ago, we had about 28 subscribers,” said Imam Mohammed. “Now we have 1,300! We are still trying to maintain that sense of community, and we’re using online tools for that now.” Imam Mohammed said he sees some advantages to increasing their online presence.
“There are people at the mosque who come daily to pray,” he said. “And there are other people who are still part of our community but they don’t come as regularly. They don’t know all that the mosque has to offer, but now, since all of the mosque programs…have gone online, it’s been a way to expose the larger community to what we have to offer.”
Breaking the fast
After breaking the fast each day, people often gather at the mosque for a meal or with extended family and friends. This year, that won’t be possible.
“People cook and invite friends and family over to eat and break the fast,” said Imam Mohammed “Perhaps we could still go and drop something off to our neighbors, but inviting people over is out of the question.”
And since Ramadan is also a month of giving, Tawheed Center usually hosts two fundraisers – one for the mosque and one for the school associated with the mosque. This year, those fundraisers will also move online.
The monthly pantry, however remains an ongoing part of Tawheed’s community outreach. Boxes of food are available the third Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Tawheed Center, 29707 W. 10 Mile, just west of Middlebelt.
“The pantry is open to everyone – it doesn’t matter what faith you are,” said Imam Mohammed. “We just want people to know that, if you’re in need, you can come and food will be provided. Come and we’ll help you out in whatever way that we can.”
At the end of Ramadan, two large celebrations, called Eid Al-Fitr, are typically held at the Tawheed Center, drawing well over 1,000 people each.
“This year will be very, very different and I believe we’re going to have to be very creative” to keep the spirit of the celebration alive, said Imam Mohammed. “I think families will probably coordinate with one another and give each other ideas of how to make the day memorable.”