Muslims in Dundee are preparing to celebrate Eid al-Fitr – one of the holiest occasions in the Islamic calendar – under Covid-19 restrictions.
Today is the final day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan and Thursday is the start of the three-day holiday Eid al-Fitr, more commonly referred to as Eid.
The date of Eid al-Fitr is calculated by the sighting of the new crescent moon, which marks the end of Ramadan.
Due to coronavirus restrictions, Dundee Central Mosque will be holding services at 7am, 8am and 10am tomorrow, rather than the usual two, so worshipers can safely socially distance.
Bashir Chohan, chairman of Dundee’s Islamic community said the day was celebrated like Christmas by Muslims, and children would receive toys and money.
Food for the vulnerable
Normally during Ramadan, the Central Mosque would welcome vulnerable and less well off people for food, offering free dinners for students and the local community to break their fasts, also known as Iftars.
Mr Chohan said: “It has been a challenging Ramadan for us due to Covid-19.
“Last year the mosque was completely closed, this year we have managed to hold socially distanced prayers with reduced numbers – we’re allowed 50 people at a time and we have capacity for 1,000.
“We’ve divided the congregation into groups and held a series of sessions, using other parts of the building.
Up to 150 meals a day across Tayside
“A big part of Ramadan for us is usually around the food. In a normal year, we’d have 500 to 600 people at the mosque to break fast in the evening and, of course, that hasn’t been possible.
“So instead our volunteers have been making food and our young people have been delivering 100 to 150 meals a day all over the city, and as far as Monifieth, Carnoustie, Arbroath, to the vulnerable.
“We’ve had a lot of donations and support from the business community. It has been so good to see people come together.
“The Islamic faith asks us to look after the needy and the vulnerable.
“Covid-19 has made that challenging for us this year and last year but we have managed to find a way to do that during the holy month of Ramadan and it has brought us together in ways we didn’t expect.
‘Eid is like our Christmas’
“Normally we have two services to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. This year because of social distancing we’ll be holding three, at 7am, 8am and 10am, spread out through the main halls and the rest of the complex.
“There will be no food but people will go home to their families to celebrate Eid in a smaller way.
“Eid is like our Christmas, so there’ll be toys and money for the children, and a lot to give thanks for and a lot of hope that next year will be different.”
Nicola Sturgeon urges safety
Scottish political leaders sent their best wishes to Muslims across the country.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Eid al-Fitr, the end Ramadan’s month of fasting, is a profoundly important event to Muslims across Scotland and around the world.
“This is the second Eid to have taken place during the pandemic, which I know has been incredibly challenging. I want to thank community leaders and members for doing an amazing job keeping each other safe during this difficult period.
Restricting celebrations ‘disappointing’
“I understand how disappointing it will be to have to restrict celebrations. However, everyone celebrating Eid must do so safely and in line with the necessary public health restrictions – unfortunately, that means not visiting other people’s homes and maintaining a two-metre distance with those from outside your household at all times.
“The changes to lockdown restrictions I announced yesterday will be welcome to many, but they do not come into force until Monday, so everyone should continue to follow the Level 3 restrictions that still apply in all areas of Scotland until then.
“We know from public health data that travel from India, Pakistan, Turkey and Nepal is a particular risk, so everyone arriving from those countries must follow the red list rules.
“I know following these rules during such a significant event will be difficult, particularly when the overall picture with the virus is positive. However, cases are high and rising in Moray, and Glasgow is seeing an increase in cases too.
Path to recovery
“By sticking to the Level 3 restrictions for just a few more days, we can all help to keep the virus under control and ensure Scotland stays on the path to recovery.
“I’d like to say a deep thank you to all of Scotland’s Muslim communities for everything you have done during the pandemic, and wish you an enjoyable Eid.”
Ms Sturgeon visited Glasgow Central Mosque on Wednesday, alongside Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf and Scottish Labour Leader and Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar.
Mr Sarwar also urged people to stick to the restrictions, despite admitting he was also “desperate” to see his loved ones.
He said: “Scottish Muslims have made sacrifices during Ramadan. But they have also made big sacrifices over the last year to get through this pandemic.
“Like me, I know you are desperate to be reunited with your loved ones. But I would urge everyone to please follow the Covid rules closely in the coming days.
‘Hope and optimism again’
“This is to keep you and your family safe and well. There is hope and optimism again as the lockdown continues to ease.
“And if we follow the rules we will soon be able to see and hold our loved ones again safely.
“I wish all Scottish Muslims a happy Eid, Eid Mubarak!”