DIGITAL EXCLUSIVE: Muslim community missing social aspect of Ramadan

Posted at 1:18 PM, May 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-05 14:18:33-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Many congregations are eager to return to their places of worship, and for the Muslim community of Omaha, that’s especially true as they celebrate one of the biggest events of their faith: Ramadan.

For many Muslims, the month of Ramadan represents strengthening connections - connections to god and their community.

“It is a month where we as Muslims, we kind of come together, and we feel our connections with God and other creations of God," said Imam Muhammad Sackor of the Islamic Center of Omaha.

But with the coronavirus closing the doors of mosques like the center, the community is having to adapt.

Throughout the Holy Month, Muslims fast from sun up to sun down, with exceptions for the sickly, pregnant, nursing and others who may be harmed by fasting.

They break that fast, often while gathering together for prayer, scripture reading and of course eating in a time called Iftar.

“Normally without the pandemic, we have more than 300 people that will come for a special meal from Muslims to non Muslims," said Sackor.

But now the center cannot open its doors so freely, with limitations being put in place for social distancing.

“Everything has changed," Sackor said. "Most of our activities in terms of preaching, speaking to people, advising people, everything has come through virtually.”

The coronavirus has also changed the way the congregation practices Zakat, a type of community outreach and charity work. While they cannot do much hands-on work at this time, the community has raised funds to provide meals and financial support for those in need who fill out an application.

“What you will do is, you will call us, my secretary is here," Sackor said. "You will call him, and then he will take your information... then we’re ready to deliver food to you at your doorstep."

The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid al-Fitr, when the month of fasting is finally over, and the community comes together to celebrate the growth they have seen in their faith.

For the Omaha community, usually around 8,000 people gather for this event, but this year, the mosque is holding a virtual Eid celebration while worshipers are encouraged to join at home.

“It is something that we grew up on it, but this year, it has been a very different way," Sackor said. "As Muslims, we are taught to learn how to obey God in all circumstances.”

Sackor said many of his congregants have had to cancel travel plans to Mecca, as Eid is often a time to make the once-in-a-lifetime journey. He says while they are home, the community is praying for relief for all humanity during this time.