Eid during COVID-19: How Muslims are celebrating in the 2nd year of restrictions

Click to play video: 'Eid during COVID-19: A subdued celebration for Edmonton Muslims'
Eid during COVID-19: A subdued celebration for Edmonton Muslims
Eid is normally a joyous day for Muslims, as they break the fast of Ramadan and reflect on the sacrifices of the last month. But as Sarah Ryan explains, this year the celebrations are subdued – May 13, 2021

After a “very lonely month” of fasting during Ramadan amid COVID-19 restrictions, Afreina Noor and her husband are hoping to make the most of Eid under the circumstances.

The Pakistani couple is planning to dress up in traditional clothes, offer Eid prayers, make sawaiyan (sweet vermicelli cooked in milk), order biryani from their favourite restaurant and go for a hike on Mount Royal.

“This year, I am determined for it not to be like last year,” Noor, who lives in Montreal, said.

“It may not be everything, but it will still be something.”

For the second year in a row, Muslims in Canada are celebrating Eid-al-Fitr Thursday during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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As the country grapples with its third coronavirus wave, lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and restrictions on gatherings mean festivities have to be scaled down.

But people are still finding ways to celebrate.

As a health-care worker, Mohammed El Sakka says it has been a stressful time for him working on the front lines of the pandemic.

Mohammed El Sakka is planning to have a brief Eid celebration with the family at home. Supplied

“Normally, we’d travel and spend Eid in a chalet with family friends,” the 45-year-old Montreal pharmacist said.

“Unfortunately, (that’s) not possible this year due to the pandemic.”

Instead, El Sakka will have a barbeque with his wife and kids in their backyard or go for a picnic.

Like last year, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) in Canada is holding a drive-thru event in Mississauga, Ont., handing out cotton candy, goodie bags, popcorn and sweets and urging attendees to decorate their cars for the occasion.

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Under normal circumstances, Eid prayers are held in large congregations at mosques.

In Ontario, religious services are limited to 10 people – indoors or outdoors – with physical distancing and face coverings, whereas since late March, places of worship have opened up in Quebec to allow gatherings of a maximum of 250 people. In Montreal, which is in the red zone, only 25 people are permitted. 

Imran Shariff, a local imam in Montreal, will be leading the morning Eid prayers at Mosquee Madani on Thursday.

“Definitely we are moving into a better atmosphere where we are allowed to operate more,” Shariff said.

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Due to the limited spaces inside, the mosque’s parking area will be used for people to pray outdoors and everyone is advised to bring their own prayer mats.

Children receive gifts ahead of Eid at Mosquee Madani in Montreal. Photo provided by Imran Shariff

In the lead-up to Eid, the mosque has been organizing a drive-by gift exchange program for children in the community. It will also host an outdoor event on Eid day, distributing helium balloons to children.

“Outdoors, the restrictions are much less than indoors, so we’re hoping to enjoy them.”

Meanwhile, the Canadian Muslim COVID-19 Task Force (CMCTF) has published guidelines on how to celebrate Eid safely amid COVID-19.

Given the pandemic restrictions, it is permissible to offer Eid prayers at home, CMCTF said.

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“You can pray with your immediate household or even alone,” the guidance said.

“If group prayers are allowed, it is best to pray outside with masks and distancing precautions.”

The task force also advised connecting with family and friends via telephone or video calls where possible and use delivery services, e-transfers or curbside drop-offs for gifts.

“If gatherings with those outside your household are permissible, we recommend minimizing the number of gatherings attended to one, keeping gathering sizes within allowable limits, meeting outdoors instead of indoors, and for shorter periods of time,” it said.

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