The month of Ramadan is underway, and the community here on the Island is looking forward to celebrating it together for the first time in two years.
Zainab bint Younus, with the Muslim Youth of Victoria says Ramadan is often referred to as a holiday, but it is more than that.
“The month of Ramadan is actually a very sacred month for the entire Muslim community, it is a month of worship,” bint Younus said. “It is a time of growing closer to God, it’s about improving ourselves as humans as neighbours as community members.”
Bint Younus says the Muslim community spends the month doing worship and community outreach.
Often as part of the nightly breaking of the fast, Muslims gather to perform Tarawih prayers, but bint Younus says that wasn’t able to happen for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s amazing for us that this is the first year in two years and we’re able to actually have these Tarawih prayers again, as well as our communal ifṭār,” bint Younus said. “So ifṭār is the breaking of the fast after sunset, and it’s a very strong tradition in the Muslim community that we gather together, we eat together, break bread together, pray together.”
She says people can choose to break their fasts privately, but often people choose to do it together as a community.
At Dar Al-Ihsan Islamic Center, bint Younus says they will be providing food for the hungry and needy, including halal meats.
“Here at Dar Al-Ihsan we have Ramadhan Food Hamper Program so any families that are in need, they can apply for a hamper and we are delighted to be able to provide that and it contains staples like halal fresh meats, dates, oil, pasta, you know staple things that will really get them through the month,” bint Younus said.
“And we also have a halal meat program through the St. Vincent De Paul Social Concern Office, the food bank, right down on Yates Street.”
As part of the daily fast, bint Younus says people wake up early to ensure they can eat something to get them through the day.
“Because the fast starts before dawn, we call the time for pre-dawn prayers Fajr, so we get up before the time for Fajr,” bint Younus said. “This morning Fajr time came in at 5:07 so we got up at around 4:30 and we have a meal, something that will get you through, and lots of water. Gotta stay hydrated for the day.”
She says part of fasting is not just from food and drink, but also from some habits.
“We’re fasting not just from food and water, but also from our less savoury characteristics so we try to obviously control our tempers, which is a huge one because when you get hangry, you get hangry,” bint Younus said. “Fasting is that time to remember we have to overcome, that we have to really focus on being the best version of ourselves.”
Bint Younus says she hopes that people in the community will be patient with Muslims, as the community fasts for Ramadan.
“The first week is always the hardest, we all have a little bit of brain fog so cut some slack,” bint Younus said. “And a word of advice to educators and to employers as well, you may be asked for certain concessions for your students or your employees, whether that’s time off or you know a slightly easier workload or adjustments to a school or work day, please do be compassionate.”
This year, Ramadan lasts until the evening of May 1.