After marking a pared-down Ramadan last year, Richmond West resident Asra Waleed plans to enjoy the small things during the upcoming Muslim holy month, including special meals with her family and attending mosque for community prayer when there’s room for her.
"The biggest thing in Islam is to always be thankful and grateful, whatever the situation is," said Waleed, an English language instructor at University of Winnipeg.
"These values carry forward in relationship to the pandemic."
Ramadan begins at sundown Tuesday, and continues for 30 days until May 12. During that time, adult Muslims fast from food or drink during daylight hours, pray five times a day, read and recite the Qur’an and donate to charity.
Manitoba Muslims eligible for a COVID-19 vaccination during Ramadan should proceed with their appointments, since getting vaccinated is not considered breaking the fast, said Urooj Danish of the Manitoba Islamic Association.
"A Muslim person cannot harm any other person in his/her surroundings," she said regarding vaccination.
"This is one way of protecting others around us."
She said Manitoba Islamic Association takes direction from the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 task force, an ad hoc group of medical professionals, religious leaders and community organizations. It recommends Muslims follow public health guidelines in their region during Ramadan, connect virtually instead of in person and get the vaccine when they are able.
The city’s two largest mosques will open for community prayers each evening with a 100-person maximum as laid out in current provincial guidelines, said Danish. Muslims who plan to attend the Grand Mosque on Waverley Street must sign up for a ticket, but Winnipeg Central Mosque on Ellice Avenue will accommodate walk-up traffic.
"We will be streaming the prayers (online) so people can listen to that and pray at home," said Danish of alternatives for the Taraweeh prayer, the community prayer after breaking the fast.
Instead of community meals, the association has asked for donations from the Muslim community to run a 7 to 8 p.m. weekday drive-thru meal service for students and people who live alone, as well as for the hundreds of food hampers and grocery cards they plan to distribute to people in need.
This year’s Ramadan may be easier for families compared to the complete lockdown during the 2020 holy month, which prevented holding any in-person events or even eating with people outside immediate households, said Idris Knapp, executive director of Winnipeg Central Mosque.
"We had a chance to stay at home (last year) with our families and had a chance to look within," he said about the time of introspection and spiritual growth associated with Ramadan.
"This year, we’ll try to keep it as low-key as possible."
Knapp will monitor daily cases and provincial health guidelines throughout Ramadan and will close the mosque, if required.
Danish said plans for Eid depend on public health guidelines in place in mid-May. Before 2020, about 10,000 Muslims gathered at the downtown convention centre for a celebration at the end of Ramadan.
Continuing restrictions means Rubina Atif is preparing for another at-home Ramadan with special food and family routines. Last year, she fasted alongside her husband and their three young adult children and turned a basement room in their Normand Park home into a prayer space. This year, most of the family will attend community prayers at Grand Mosque when they can get tickets, but they will continue their home-based practices as part of the spiritual discipline of Ramadan.
"The meaning of Ramadan is to think of others who are less fortunate than us," said Atif, program coordinator at SSCOPE, a non-profit organization that provides employment and housing to vulnerable people.
"When we are fasting, we can feel what people who do not have food feel, (people) who have an empty stomach."
Despite pandemic restrictions, Ramadan remains a spiritual highlight of the year for Waleed, but she regrets her young daughters, ages 4 and 7 will miss a second year of experiencing the community aspect of Ramadan. With vaccination campaigns underway, she has faith 2022 will be different.
"We hope next Ramadan we can all get together in people’s houses and things will get better," said Waleed.
Brenda Suderman has been a columnist in the Saturday paper since 2000, first writing about family entertainment, and about faith and religion since 2006.