What you should know about observing Ramadan in Waterloo region

The holy month will wrap up with Eid ul-Fitr celebrations on May 13

As Muslims around the world begin to observe the holy month of Ramadan, religious leaders in Waterloo region who are observing their second pandemic Ramadan say it’s an opportunity for spiritual growth and heightened family connection. 

Rania Lawendy, youth junior national director at the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) and principal of MAC Maple Grove School, said she benefited greatly from Ramadan last year and intends to observe in the same way.

“It was a really great time to connect with family … I was able to focus with the kids, too, on worship and really getting the most out of Ramadan,” she said.

“While COVID is something we are really hoping will end soon, and we will be to be able to be in the mosque and see our friends and out in the community, it was really an opportunity to get closer to those we love and really feel a spiritual connection.”

For the next four weeks, members of the Muslim community will take part in a daily fast, spiritual self-reflection and acts of charity.

It’s the second time Ramadan will be observed under quarantine. Muslims in Ontario will also observe under an emergency brake shutdown and stay-at-home order.

Here’s what you should know about Ramadan in the region:

Giving back

Muslims will start their day around sunrise with a meal, before they fast until sunset. The daily fast wraps with a meal many people call ‘iftar’.

Though the community can’t feast together this year, they are coming together to make sure everyone is fed.

The Kitchener Masjid is hosting drive-thru iftars every weekend where people can pick up hundreds of meals partially donated by local restaurants.

MAC is also hosing a community food share campaign that distributes grocery store gift cards to those in need.

Muslim Social Services KW has also identified more than 70 students, mainly international students, in the region who require a meal delivered to their doorstep. The organization is also delivering food to some elder members of the community and newcomer families.

It’s to, “Give them a sense of belonging and community during this Ramadan … They’re not alone,” said Engin Sezen, executive director of the organization.

The Coalition of Muslim Women of KW has also partnered up with Give 30, a campaign with a goal to end hunger. They’re gathering donations that will be distributed to the Waterloo and Cambridge food banks.

There will also be a virtual Ramadan celebration on Saturday at the Waterloo library.

Special prayers

In addition to the five daily prayers, Muslims during Ramadan also observe special evening prayers. Usually, they’re observed in a communal setting, but people can also pray independently at home.

Under current health measures, mosques in the region can operate at 15 per cent capacity. For the Kitchener Masjid that means about 100 people per prayer.

The mosque is hosting two sets to special evening prayers daily and people must pre-register if they wish to attend. The special prayers have also been decreased by half so people are gathered for a shorter amount of time.

There are also strict safety guidelines including screening, temperature checks and markings for physical distancing.

Virtual events, education

MAC launched virtual programming available to all ages across the country. There will be nightly readings of stories from the Qur’an as well as Kahoot competitions for youth.

There’s also a weekly series on Islamic history for youth. As well as a Ramadan edition of ‘The Amazing Race’ – a physical, mental and spiritual challenge for youth.

Muslim Social Services KW is also hosting a daily online Qur’an recitation program and weekly lectures with Imams across Ontario who will talk about the pillars of Ramadan and mental health.

To reduce the feeling of social isolation, the organization will also host virtual iftars every Saturday where people can socialize online.

The month will wrap up with Eid ul-Fitr celebrations slated for May 13.

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