After a year off, prayer has resumed inside the Islamic Center of Rochester during Ramadan.
For Muslims, Ramdan is known for fasting, prayer, reflection and community over the course of a lunar month.
Like most of society, Ramadan services have been impacted by COVID-19. The center’s president, Tabassam Javed, said Monday that wearing a mask and social distancing is required, state guidelines limit attendance to about 200 people, and attendees have to pre-register to attend prayer services to ensure contact tracing. He said it can be difficult for older members of the community, but there is help available.
“We paired them up with young people in the congregation who helped register for the evening prayer,” said Javed.
As a courtesy to fellow Muslims, there are some exceptions.
“Let’s say someone is going from Syracuse to Buffalo, and it's Ishtar time, it's time for prayer, they would be waived from this registration requirement and we have had a few of those,” said Javed.
With all this change, Javed misses much of the pre-pandemic Ramadan atmosphere. He said the hallways would typically be bustling, full of chatter, and conversations could go on for hours.
“It just seems still unnatural,” said Javed. “It’s almost like people finish their prayers, say their goodbyes to people and they’re in the parking lots.”
For members of the congregation like Sareer Fazili, adapting is worth it to get closer to God.
“It’s a blessing during this month of Ramadan, to be allowed back into the Islamic Center,” said Fazili. “Because last year we were not allowed to go in at all during Ramadan.”
Despite his congregation’s very high vaccination rate, Javed said attendees are cautious, as is the mosque. The center is not holding traditional study groups because of the pandemic and Friday prayers have been split into three different services instead of one big one.
Fazili said that some of these changes are inconvenient but Islam’s doctrines say they should be followed closely.
“Observing the regulations that have been put into place by authorities for our own safety is a must. We call it a Sunnah, or a tradition of the prophet, to take care and avoid such areas and activities that put us in harm and put others in harm,” said Fazili.