Manitoba Muslims prepare to mark Ramadan in person together again

For the first time in two years, members of the Manitoba Islamic Association are able to meet up to get ready for Ramadan without COVID-19 restrictions.

The gymnasium at the Winnipeg Grand Mosque was buzzing with excitement this weekend as young Muslims came together to learn the meaning of the 30-day religious observance.

“Ramadan is a month of fasting and doing good deeds,” said Najmeddin El-Bakri, who’s in Grade 5.

For the first time, the 10 year-old will fast during Ramadan. He admitted he’s a little nervous about handling hunger pangs later in the day.

Najmeddin El-Bakri, who’s in Grade 5, said he plans to fast for Ramadan for the first time. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“Sometimes in school, I get tired in gym,” said El-Bakri. But he said he learned a strategy at today’s event, where teenagers offered children lessons on the meaning of Ramadan.

“If you want more strength, you could ask God to help you throughout the day, so you make it through,” he said.

For 10 year-old Maryam Almiski, Ramadan is a time to work on self-improvement.

“Some people have bad habits, which lead to bad things,” said Almiski, who plans to step up her dental hygiene during the 30-day holiday, and floss her teeth every day.

Maryam Almiski, 10, said she plans to spend Ramadan reflecting on how to become a better person. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“You need to get rid of bad habits to become a good person,” said the fifth grader, who fasted 27 days last Ramadan.

“I was pretty hungry, since it was my first time,” she said. “But I learned patience.”

This time, she hopes to get through the entire month without eating from sunrise to sunset.

18 year-old U of M student Nawal Samir, a member of MIA’s youth leadership program, spent her Saturday teaching kids the meaning of Ramadan. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

Nawal Samir, 18, smiled as she talked to children at the mosque.

“I hope the kids learn to be generous and to become future leaders,” said Samir, a member of the MIA’s youth leadership program. The teenager also studies at the University of Manitoba and plans to be a lawyer.

“It’s about inner growth, but also about sharing with the community,” said Samir, as she finished a session teaching the kids arts and crafts. 

“My main goal is to become a better Muslim, and that means becoming a better person.”

Dr. Hanan Awad volunteers at the MIA’s Kids’ Library, and organized the event for youth, held for the first time in two years. Her face was beaming with pride as she welcomed more than 140 children to the event at the mosque.

Manitoba Islamic Association volunteer Dr. Hanan Awad organized the youth event and said Ramadan is a time to look inward and reflect on her life. (Walther Bernal/CBC)

“I’m so happy to be together again,” said Awad, a medical doctor with a PhD in biochemistry. 

She said it was hard not to meet up with friends and relatives to mark Ramadan during the pandemic. But she said being in isolation as she fasted and prayed wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“For me, Ramadan is more of a spiritual thing. So I need to be by myself sometimes during Ramadan,” said Awad.

“This is a time when you stop all the routine activity that you are doing every day, and think about yourself, who you are and what you want to achieve.”

The MIA has more events planned as it gets ready for the Holy Month, including a community bazaar featuring Arabic crafts and food on Saturday evening. During Ramadan, the organization will offer drive-through service for picking up Iftar feasts to enjoy after sundown. It’s also collecting funds to offer food hampers for people in need.

Ramadan is expected to begin on April 2, depending on the sighting of the moon, running till Sunday, May 1.

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