Opinion: Reflections on Ramadan in Kingston
Editorial note: The following is a submitted Op/Ed piece regarding Ramadan in Kingston, and the changes the community has faced since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The views and opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Kingstonist.
Ramadan in Kingston has always been about the community coming together.
From the days when the Islamic Centre of Kingston (ICK) was just a dream, to the days in which the mosque has been full to capacity in the last nights of Ramadan, we have always gathered as a community for weekly iftars, nightly Taraweeh prayers, and special Ramadan programs, including overnight programs for children and for youth.
It is a month in which we strengthen the bonds between ourselves as Sisters and Brothers, whilst seeking that spiritual high. That all changed when the COVID-19 pandemic broke.
For the past two years, Ramadan has been a very different affair. When usually we would look forward to seeing friends and family every night, we were no longer able to go to the masjid to listen to the beautiful recitation of Qur’an. We could no longer gather for iftar. The children and youth missed their overnight programs. We tried to connect with online programs from our own masjid, but also with learned scholars all over the world, giving us access to so much, although isolated from others.
Living in a multi-generational home allowed our family the chance to pray Taraweeh together every night after listening to Imam Abubakar Mulla’s “Tafseer Snapshot” online, daily explanations of the Qur’an. Each night, my father led ‘Isha prayer (the regular night prayer), while the next two generations took turns leading parts of Taraweeh (special prayers in Ramadan) for our 6-member congregation — a wonderful opportunity for my sons.
Muslim Children’s Circle shifted online to weekly Sunday Story Time. Youth events also shifted online, though were able to shift back to in-person outside and finally, when vaccinations spread, back to the mosque, albeit with masks. But, despite all the efforts, it wasn’t the same, because we were isolated from each other.
This Ramadan, as things finally started to open up, the mosque was able to hold Taraweeh prayers at long last. The excitement could be felt from every generation.
My 12-year-old asked, “Mom, can I pray with my friends?” Most people arrived early for the prayer, probably in order to greet each other before the prayer. The air was almost electrifying.
While we had been open for Jumu’ah (Friday prayers) for quite some time, you could feel and hear the excitement on that first night of Taraweeh. It was the excitement of Ramadan and being able to share it with each other. As we listened to our first Tafseer Snapshot in person after two years, and quickly filed into line to pray, it was the loud “Ameen” of a young child that truly made it feel like Ramadan again.
Throughout the month, we have held two overnight programs for children, as well as for youth. This past weekend at the Youth Boys’ program, they had two discussions, played games, took time to read Qur’an, and even prayed together late at night, taking turns leading before it was time to eat before dawn. This week we will have overnight programs for the adults.
It feels like Ramadan again, although there are some differences: with some masking, others not; some bringing prayer mats, others don’t. Community potluck iftars have resumed but, as a family with elders in the house, we have chosen not to participate, given the rising COVID-19 numbers.
Though I feel blessed to have been able to pray with my family, led by my sons, nothing can compare to joining with my Brothers and Sisters in Islam, listening to recitation of Qur’an, night after night, from the first page to the last. While the numbers have waned during the weekdays as prayer time gets later and later, I look forward to the full house, with the Islamic Centre of Kingston brimming with grandparents, parents, youth, and children, as we finally reach the final chapter of the Qur’an on Friday night. Apparently, there will be ice-cream, Insha Allah.
The last day of Ramadan will be on Sunday, May 1, with ‘Eid-ul-Fitr celebrated on Monday, May 2, 2022. Muslims will likely take the day off from school and work on ‘Eid day to celebrate. ‘Eid prayers will be held on Monday starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Memorial Centre (303 York Street).
Mona N. Rahman, PhD