In Ramadan’s spirit of hope, New York’s Muslims cautiously open mosques

NEW YORK (RNS)  —  Umair Saad loved Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting and prayer. The Long Island resident would wait for it all year long, excited to sit down with his family to iftar, the meal that breaks the day’s fast at sundown, and to join the crowd at the local mosque to pray the nightly prayers called tarawih, followed by breakfast before sunrise.

But last year, when Ramadan fell during the worst of the pandemic, mosques were closed, crowds were forbidden and restaurants were shuttered. Saad spent it mostly at home. He led the daily prayers while his son led tarawih. He waited for the next year to provide some normalcy, his niece Sara Mohamad told Religion News Service.

In December, Saad had a heart attack and died at age 57. Like other Muslims being mourned by families left behind, he wouldn’t get to share another Ramadan.

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“He was always one of the first people at the masjid,” said Mohamad, using the Arabic word for mosque. “When the pandemic came and mosques were closed, he got very upset. But at the same time, he understood why. He would tell us this happened for a reason and was a test from Allah and that we should be patient.”

This year, Ramadan will begin on Monday or Tuesday (April 12 or 13), depending on when Muslims around the world sight the new moon that signals the beginning of the lunar month. 

Before the pandemic, tarawih prayers inevitably drew Muslims who rarely attend the mosque. But in the first week of Ramadan 2020, with the number of cases rising every day in the city, people had little choice but to go virtual for Ramadan. 

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Categories: Fasting, Ramadan

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