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How Coronavirus Is Changing Ramadan For Muslims In Metro Detroit (April 25, 2020)

During a regular Ramadan weekend at the Islamic Center of Detroit, a call to prayer would mark the end of a daylong fast, and people would gather under a big white tent, decorated with lights, to enjoy iftar meals with family and friends before going into the mosque, where congregants would stand shoulder-to-shoulder, sometimes spilling into the hallways to pray.
But this is not a regular Ramadan weekend. As a stay-home order has stopped gatherings, daily visits to mosques are being replaced with streamed viewings of sermons. Breaking fast with friends at local restaurants is no longer possible, but maybe “Zoom” iftars can replace the gatherings. Like many believers whose religious traditions have been upended by the pandemic, Muslims are adapting as the month of Ramadan begins.
“I believe the families will bond together and emerge stronger than before,” said Imam Mustapha Elturk, of the Islamic Organization of North America in Warren. “Everyone is confined. Homes become mosques.”
Mosque leaders are adjusting and asking families to do the same, he said. The Islamic Organization of North America used the days before Ramadan, which started Thursday night, to prepare for virtual services and tie up any loose ends around the technology.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, when we started the lockdown and we announced to the community about the suspended congregation I would come to the masjid with a broken heart,” Elturk said.
Despite the disruptions, he said he still feels connected to his faith community and has high hopes for the rest of Ramadan. About 150 congregants tuned in yesterday for the first Friday online khutbah, or sermon, of the month.
Like other mosques across Michigan, the Islamic Center of Detroit is closed for daily prayers but has introduced online services, said executive director Sufian Nabhan. This includes recitations of the Quran, spiritual lectures and kids’ storytelling sessions. When it’s time to break the fast in the evening, the adhan or call to prayer, is streamed live.
“We are trying to bring a sense of Ramadan through social media so they can at least feel that the spirit is still there,” Nabhan said.
Fasting during Ramadan is one of five pillars in Islam and is obligatory for Muslims, aside from a few exceptions. Observant Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours and this year’s Ramadan is no different, said several imams. In fact, the importance of worship and giving back are only heightened during these difficult times.