Muslims across the province are planning various celebrations for Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month-long celebration where Muslims gather to pray, worship and fast from sunrise to sunset every day of the month.
There are two billion Muslims in the world making Islam the second-largest religion on the planet. For Muslims in rural areas of the province, gatherings for Ramadan are small as Islam is a minority religion here.
Mohammed Moaaj lives in Corner Brook and estimates there are less than 100 Muslims in the area. Many of them have come together to form a community of their own.
“In Corner Brook it’s like our tiny community,” said Moaaj. “It’s pretty much similar to a community like Harbour Deep, a remote community.”
With no mosque for them to worship, places like Western Memorial Hospital and local businesses have provided the Muslim community with space to pray. The only mosque in the province is in St. John’s.
Muslims in Corner Brook are very close during Ramadan, says Moaaj. Between prayer for wellbeing and lectures of Islam, the community comes together to prepare a feast to share during Iftar; the evening meal to break the fast.
“It’s pretty much like a Thanksgiving,” said Moaaj. “But an everyday Thanksgiving.”
Minahil Khan is from Stephenville and says Ramadan gatherings are limited to her family because there aren’t enough Muslims to gather.
Ramadan is unfamiliar to most in the community, says Khan, who has been explaining her religion to locals her entire life.
“Usually, I just tell them that it’s like how they have Christmas,” said Khan. “We have a thing called Ramadan but it’s for one month.”
Growing up without a mosque, Khan’s mother would put extra effort into Ramadan worship and celebrations in order to stay connected to their faith.
“She made food and we got clothes from Pakistan,” said Khan. “We listened to prayers and music and stuff and watched broadcasts on TV, so my mom didn’t really let that gap appear.”
The absence of a mosque was an adjustment for Moaaj, who is originally from Qatar where the majority of people are Muslim and Ramadan is widely celebrated.
“There are still times where I’m disconnected from that environment,” said Moaaj. “Because that environment does have a big impact on a person.”
Moaaj has found ways to adapt to Ramadan in the province and believes that more people outside the Muslim faith are becoming aware of the holy month.
One time at a local restaurant, Moaaj and his friend explained to the waitress they were waiting until sunset to break their fast. The waitress returned with water and dates; the preferred food Muslims eat to break their fast.
“She mentioned that they have a lot of Muslims come in who are fasting so they offer complimentary dates,” said Moaaj. “Which is quite a phenomenal thing to see.”
A lot of people, says Moaaj, are still quick to judge Muslims based on stereotypes. During Ramadan, the local Muslim community is planning to educate people through discussion and debunking false claims about Islam.
“Judge us as a human first,” said Moaaj. “Our religion doesn’t teach to kill people, but this is something that comes up in the news and politics comes into play.”
More education is needed, says Khan, who believes that she wouldn’t have to constantly explain why she is fasting to people if it was talked about as often as other religious holidays are.
“I want people to understand and (remove) the stigma that Islam is a brutal religion and it’s super strict,” said Khan. “Islam is pretty peaceful and it’s not as bad as it seems.”
This year, Moaaj is planning to help organize events in public venues and is inviting those from outside the Muslim faith to join them in Ramadan festivities.
“(Ramadan) is about loving people and caring for each other,” said Moaaj. “It doesn’t matter if you’re Muslim or not, we welcome everyone.”
**The story has been edited to reflect that Ramadan is not always during the month of April. A change was also made to reflect the fact that Muslims pray up to five times a day regardless of Ramadan.