Muslims across Dundee are looking ahead to government restrictions easing in time for the start of the holy month of Ramadan.
Last year coronavirus hit Scotland just before Ramadan began, and now the Muslim community in Dundee are being faced with a second Ramadan in lockdown.
Despite this, many say they are feeling positive and hopeful for Ramadan 2021, which starts on April 12, because government restrictions will be eased to allow 50 people to gather at a place of worship.
It comes after a court ruled on Wednesday that locking restrictions to close places of worship was unlawful and they could reopen immediately.
Communal worship was already due to resume from Friday.
‘Really appreciate’ restrictions being eased – Al Maktoum Mosque
Abi Abubaker, director of Al Maktoum Mosque in Dundee, said he feels “optimistic” for Ramadan this year because of the easing of the coronavirus restrictions.
He said: “Ramadan is coming up pretty soon and I am quite optimistic about it this year.
“On March 26 places of worship can reopen with restricted numbers, but at least there will be some kind of activity around the mosque.
“Prayers can take place with government guidelines on numbers and we will need to take all the other precautions such as social distancing, wearing face masks, hand sanitising and providing alternative entrances and exits.
“But some activity is better than nothing at all and it will be a little bit more normal.
“It will be somewhat quieter and more muted, but normal worship will be going ahead with reduced numbers, and that is very appreciated and something to be grateful for.”
Al Maktoum Mosque is also looking at how to provide iftar meals to break their fast at sunset this year.
Abi said: “Normally we would provide a programme of iftar meals throughout the month of Ramadan, but this year that will not be possible.
“We may consider some other activity like distributing food parcels to those who would normally attend our iftar programme.
“That went down really well last year because they were happy to still have that sense of it being a special month, even if they couldn’t come to the mosque.
“It can be a difficult month for some people who are away from home for the first time and it is also nice to recognise and do something for the community.”
Hundreds of iftar meals to be handed out by Dundee Central Mosque
Dundee Central Mosque volunteers are planning to hand out 100 hot meals every day during the month of Ramadan.
Iftekhar Yaqub, president of Dundee Central Mosque, said: “Normally we have an iftar evening meal to break to fast at sunset after a long day of fasting and in normal circumstances we would all get together in the mosque.
“We could have up to 300 people in the mosque eating meals donated by the public.
“Because of Covid-19 we can’t feed people in the mosque and we also can’t deliver meals to everyone in Dundee because there is a Muslim population of 5,000 here, it would be impossible.
“We will be providing and delivering iftar meals to single parents, people on low incomes, those affected by coronavirus such as those isolating, the vulnerable and elderly people in our community that may need some extra help to get through Ramadan.
“Having someone knocking on your door with a meal and having some slight interaction could really help someone’s mental health and wellbeing, it could make a difference to their whole day.
“Usually we pass the time by eating and doing this and that, but during Ramadan you have to be more disciplined.
“You stay away from food and water and bad habits such as smoking or swearing.
“It is not just about food, it is about self-discipline and improving ourselves as human beings.
“If you have no one around to speak to it can be very stressful.”
Dundee Central Mosque now has an online form for those who want to take part in the iftar meal programme.
The mosque is expecting to spend around £15,000 on the iftar meals, with approximately 100 hot meals being cooked by Sizzlers takeaway and then distributed across Dundee.
Some of the meals will include biriyani, curry, naan bread and fish and chips, and chicken nuggets and fish fingers for children.
Iftekhar added: “This is our second Ramadan in lockdown but last year we were in complete lockdown and this time things will have eased a bit more so it will be easier for us.
“We will still need to do contactless deliveries, wear face masks and have social distancing in accordance with government guidelines, but it will be a bit easier.”
Yusuf Youth Initiative volunteers to help distribute iftar meals
Last year Yusuf Youth Initiative cooked and delivered hundreds of iftar meals across the city for Ramadan 2020.
This year, the organisation is planning to get as many volunteers as possible helping the city’s mosques to deliver its iftar packages.
Faisal Hussein from Yusuf Youth Initiative said: “The good news for this Ramadan is the fact mosques are going to be open.
“They will be permitted to have 50 worshippers which is a change from last year when they were totally closed.
“Last year when we went into lockdown we distributed food but this year Dundee Central Mosque is taking the lead on that and we will be supporting that with volunteers to do the deliveries.
“There will potentially be some provision for our Eid celebrations as well, but that all depends on where the government takes us so although we are not planning for Eid right now, it is in the back of our heads.
“Getting the mosques open is a step in the right direction because it has been a really hard time for people.
“Hopefully towards the end of Ramadan restrictions will be eased even further.
“It is a shame because as much as Ramadan is religious and spiritual, it is a big social thing and that is not going to be able to happen.
“We see how hard it is for people at this hard time.”
Ramadan will run from Monday April 12 until Wednesday May 12 with Eid al-Fitr running from Wednesday May 12 until Thursday May 13.