‘Takes away from the enjoyment’: Danbury-area Muslims modify Ramadan celebrations again due to COVID

Photo of Shayla Colon
The Muslim community in greater Danbury joined together for an Eid prayer service to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Wednesday, July 6, 2016, held at the Amber Room in Danbury.

The Muslim community in greater Danbury joined together for an Eid prayer service to celebrate the end of Ramadan, Wednesday, July 6, 2016, held at the Amber Room in Danbury.

Hearst Connecticut Media file photo

When the crescent moon was spotted Monday night, the Danbury-area’s Muslim community prepared for the first day of Ramadan on Tuesday.

The celebration, which ends June 1, consists of fasting, extended prayers and “spiritual enhancement,” said Shakoor Khan, president of the Baitul Mukarram Masjid in Danbury

“Ramadan is always special for Muslims. It’s a month where our good deeds are being multiplied. It’s always like a spiritual enhancement where you work to get closer to your creator,” Khan said, adding it will be more memorable this year because last year the pandemic “locked” the community out of their mosques.

Still, a year later, the Muslim community faces limitations on their religious observance of the holiday.

“We’re not locked out, but we still have space limitations,” Khan said. “It’s still a little sad, but people are grateful for the ability to now attend some of the prayers at the mosque.”

Several Danbury-area mosques are refraining from collective meals, but are allowing members to attend socially distanced prayer services following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Imran Qazi, a member of the Islamic Society of Western Connecticut, said even as an adult, “it hits you.”

“What do you mean I don’t get to see my family and friends on a daily basis? It’s depressing,” he said. “It takes away from the enjoyment because you’re not doing it as a group, but we understand it’s to move forward as a community.”

Qazi will celebrate individually this year with all of the traditional trimmings and by helping those who are struggling through a nonprofit to which he belongs, Muslims for Humanity.

Mazaharul Islam, the imam, or leader, of the Baitul Mukarram Islamic Center in Danbury, said the modified traditions are “not easy.” A large part of Ramadan customs is marked by gathering to celebrate breaking fasts with each other.

“We usually all get together and are happy to see each other as a community,” he said. “Everyone usually eats together, break[s] their fast together.”

But it seems people will continue honoring one another from a distance or via video calls, Islam added.

Typically, Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the final day of the celebration, by gathering together for a grand meal. Islam said the day is often earmarked by handshakes, hugs and gift-giving, though, many of those loving gestures remain absent due to the ongoing crisis.

Another Ramadan hallmark is participating in Taraweeh — an additional, extended daily prayer in which Muslims either recite or listen to a chapter of the Quran with the goal of having recited all 30 chapters of the holy book within the month, Khan said.

Muslim community members have started their ritual fasting. During Ramadan, members fast from pre-dawn to sunset in light of giving to others, understanding and letting go of “ego” and “arrogance,” Islam said.

“When you are starving yourself, you understand how the poor feel and how the other people without food feel. Controlling our ego is another way,” he said.

Islam also said it is believed God looks at his servants with “special mercy” during this month, which is why prayers can be focused around repentance and forgiveness for previous sins.