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Ramadan begins for N.L. Muslim communities, marking a month of empathy and togetherness

Masjid-al-Noor will see less parishioners as Muslim families begin to leave Newfoundland and Labrador.  (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Masjid-al-Noor will see less parishioners as Muslim families begin to leave Newfoundland and Labrador. (Curtis Hicks/CBC - image credit)
Masjid-al-Noor will see less parishioners as Muslim families begin to leave Newfoundland and Labrador.
Masjid-al-Noor will see less parishioners as Muslim families begin to leave Newfoundland and Labrador.

Masjid-al-Noor, pictured here, is the mosque in St. John's but there are growing Muslim communities all over the province. (Curtis Hicks/CBC)

Sunday marked the beginning of the month of Ramadan not just for Muslims around the world, but also for thousands across Newfoundland and Labrador.

For Mostafa Hanout from Corner Brook, the month is all about empathy.

"The main thing about fasting during the month of Ramadan is, it's a way to develop self-control. And also, it's a way to feel for the poor people who don't find means to secure their meals," said Hanout.

"We also are so keen to do charity during this month and try to help those who don't have means."

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is marked by fasting from dawn to sunset, prayer, charity and togetherness. It is one of the five pillars, or fundamental practices, of Islam.

Eid al-Fitr celebrations mark the end of the month, which falls on Apr. 9 this year.

In Corner Brook, about 140 people will observe Ramadan, said Hanout, as the local Muslim community is growing.

"We have ... approximately 25 families, but there are also some students, who are single, who study at the Grenfell campus," Hanout said.

Yet despite its growth, there is still no mosque in the area.

While Hanout said fundraising efforts are ongoing and government officials have promised funding, he believes it might still take years before a place of worship will be built in the community.

Worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on March 21, 2023, as Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest shrines in Islam, announced that the fasting month of Ramadan will start from March 23.
Worshippers pray at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca on March 21, 2023, as Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest shrines in Islam, announced that the fasting month of Ramadan will start from March 23.

This file photo from 2023 shows worshippers praying at the Grand Mosque in the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia, home of the holiest shrines in Islam. (Abdel Ghani Bashir/AFP/Getty Images)

As gatherings to break fast and prayers at the mosque are a major part of Ramadan, Hanout said the community has found alternative spaces to come together.

"Once or twice a week, we try to gather in the space we have in the campus or in the space we have in the chapel room in the hospital," Hanout said.

"We try to break our fast together … and also invite our non-Muslim friends to join us for this social eating."

Learning about Islam and its traditions, said Hanout, is how non-Muslims in the province can show support.

LISTEN | The CBC's Heather Barrett learns about Ramadan celebrations across Newfoundland:

On the other side of the island, Omer Mallhi shares a similar sentiment.

He said the Muslim community is happy to share both culture and food with anyone who is interested in educating themselves on the religion.

"Not only you will see the differences but you will also see the commonality with which we have," said Mallhi.

"We love Canada the same way. We try to be a better part of the society."

Mallhi is president of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama'at, the Muslim community based in Conception Bay South, which currently counts 30 people.

"By the end of this month, we have a refugee family that's coming from Malaysia to join us and hopefully, they will have a new start and their second life in Canada," said Mallhi.

"Thankfully, Canada has been a very welcoming country for people who really, really need it."

First ever Ramadan lights installation at Piccadilly Circus is pictured on the eve of the first day of Ramadan, in London, Britain, March 21 2023.
First ever Ramadan lights installation at Piccadilly Circus is pictured on the eve of the first day of Ramadan, in London, Britain, March 21 2023.

Ramadan is celebrated by Muslims all over the globe. 2023 saw the first ever Ramadan lights installation at Piccadilly Circus in London, Britain. (Anna Gordon/Reuters)

Though the Muslim community in C.B.S. is much smaller than the one in Corner Brook, it does have a mosque to gather and pray.

"It's called Baitul Ehsaan, the House of Grace, and it has been functional for more than a year now," said Mallhi. "We do regular prayers there and this Ramadan, it is going to again be the centre of our social activities."

He said this is the most important month in his religion.

"We do a spiritual exercise where we try to do more for our relationship with the Almighty," Mallhi said.

"We try to do more for our society in general. We try to be more charitable. We try to have more spiritual self-discipline. So this month … we're going to try to be better Muslims and better human beings."

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