Contributed photo
Tanya Howell’s prayer room (Contributed photo)

For Muslims throughout Connecticut, the traditional Eid al -Fitr prayer and celebration will mark the end of a month of fasting, but this year’s celebration will be different.

Having already modified the way in which they celebrate the Ramadan holiday, which is traditionally a very communal time of prayer, fasting and breaking fast, 40 of the 54 Mosque leaders met via a Zoom and decided, based on public health concerns, to cancel the public celebration of Eid al-Fitr. Instead, they will encourage their followers to celebrate remotely this year.

“This is something that has never happened in my lifetime,” Tark Aouadi, the executive director of the Council of American Islamic Relations in Connecticut (CAIR), said.

Eid al-Fitr is the “Festival of Breaking the Fast”. It is a religious holiday celebrated by more than 1 billion Muslims worldwide, marking the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan. This time traditionally is marked by festive gatherings, a morning prayer, gift giving and communal celebrations and gatherings at mosques. Last year’s Eid al-Fitr celebration at the Bridgeport Mosque saw a crowd of over 3,000 and other outdoor celebrations of the sacred holiday garnered upwards of 4,000 people.

“A lot of people want to celebrate this holiday in the traditional way, but we don’t want to spike a curve that is going down,” said Aouadi.

The mosque leaders consulted health care professionals including said Dr. Reza Mansoor president of The Islamic Association of Greater Hartford in Berlin and a cardiologist at Hartford Hospital, about the decision to cancel the public celebration of this revered holiday. All agreed to err on the side of caution this year.

“We discussed all the pros and cons and although the numbers of people infected with COVID is going down, the consensus from the mosque leaders was that we don’t want to gather and spike that curve, even though there is religious exception for our gatherings. We will be gathering remotely.”

Aouadi is referring to Gov. Ned Lamont’s executive order prohibiting gatherings of more than 49 people if it’s for religious purposes. The number of people allowed to gather for non-religious purposes is still five.

“It is important for Muslims to respect the intent behind the guideline,” Aouadi said. He explained that it is part of the Muslim religious tradition to always keep the well-being and protection of the community paramount.

“As responsible citizens we want to encourage community members to do their part in helping to stop the spread of the corona virus by practicing social distancing measures and this includes not gathering in large numbers at mosques, community centers and public parks for Eid this year,” Aouadi said.

Agreeing Reza said, “As a community we have to take a responsible stand of caring for all of us and especially the most at risk; the elderly and those with diabetes, heart and lung disease.”

Ramadan ends this year, according to the Islamic calendar, on May 23, in the United States. Under ordinary circumstances, the Eid al-Fitr celebration would take place during the first three days of Shawwal (the month after Ramadan). During this time, parties would be held, with the giving of presents and gathering together for morning prayer and a big breakfast of special celebratory foods such as; eggs, rice, cereal and different meats. Eid al-Fitr is seen as a spiritual celebration of Allah’s provision of strength and endurance.

Although there will be no gatherings, several mosques throughout the state will set up times and places to give out sweets and presents, while adhering to social distancing practices.

Hopes are that things will be different in time for the next big Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, which is the “feast of the sacrifice.”  This will take place in 45 days. It comes at the end of the Hajj, which is an annual pilgrimage by millions of Muslims to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

For now, Aouadi explained that Friday prayers will continue to be held online until further notice. For more information email or call 860-341-2247.