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With mosques closed amid pandemic, Muslims celebrate Ramadan with family, helping others

C. Isaiah Smalls II and Bianca Padró Ocasio, Miami Herald on

Published in Religious News

MIAMI -- This Ramadan was supposed to be a special one for Ameen Dalal.

The 12-year-old's Davie, Fla., parents finally planned to let him fast for the full 29 days, instead of a week or two at a time. Their decision to include him in the fast, which most children don't begin until they have hit puberty, would bring him a step closer to adulthood.

Then mosques began to close amid the coronavirus pandemic and Ameen -- along with millions of Muslims across the globe -- soon realized that celebrating the monthlong holiday that commemorates Allah revealing the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad would take a different tone.

"I was a little bit sad," said Ameen, later listing group prayers at the mosque and playing basketball as what he'll miss the most during the month of fasting and prayer.

Although Florida's statewide suspension of nonessential businesses does not include religious services, most in South Florida's Muslim community have pivoted to online prayers. But the month of Ramadan represents a different kind of loss for Muslims, who usually gather in the hundreds, celebrating in mosques every night during the holiday to break fast and pray.

"It's like having 29 Thanksgivings. It's something people have lived through their wholes lives, and all of a sudden it becomes interrupted," said Wilfredo Ruiz, communications director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Florida. "It's like in all religions ... those who never went to mosque, now was the time to do it."

 

Most daily prayers and the pre-dawn meal of suhoor, which Muslims must eat an hour before the sun comes out, can still happen at home. But imams will no longer conduct daily taraweeh, or the extended prayer during Ramadan that usually takes place at mosques.

Muslims also won't attend their local masjids to break fast for the post-sunset meal, iftar.

"There are some nonessential, but important, rituals that are tied to Ramadan, that now won't be able to happen. ... It's going to cause some sadness," Ruiz said.

While COVID-19 might have changed Ameen's first full Ramadan, the preteen said he understands that being able to participate with his family is enough. To his mother, Tehsin Siddiqui, witnessing Ameen and his two siblings' journey in Islam is a gift in itself.

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