BY KEREM DORUK
Australian Muslims are celebrating the holy month of Ramadan where, for the first time in history, the holy festival is being observed in isolation - no communal prayers, no Iftars at Monash University and no traditional Eid celebration.
Ramadan 2020 kicked off after the arrival of COVID-19 on Australian shores, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to deliver a message to Australian Muslims about the importance of observing the lockdown by maintaining social distancing and avoiding large Ramadan gatherings.
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) Vice President Adel Salman said the Muslim community had demonstrated fantastic sense of community spirit and generosity during the pandemic.
Mosques are central to Ramadan with Muslims congregating each night at their local mosque and offering prayers with neighbours and family.
According to Mr Salman, the biggest challenge facing Australian Muslims and ICV operations during the pandemic has been the closure of mosques.
"Not being able to attend daily congregational prayers, the weekly Friday prayers, religious classes, and other gatherings at the mosque has been a big shock for many and created a sense of sadness and loss," Mr Salman said.
"The ICV has closed the city mosque and all staff and volunteers are working from home. We have not been able to offer our nightly Iftars and Taraweeh prayers at the mosque."
Ramadan in lockdown has been challenging for the Monash University Islamic Society (MUIS). Their annual Grand Iftar charity has been impacted and many of their operations have been forced to adapt to COVID-19 restrictions.
MUIS president Dzemal Efendic said the organisation has transformed its Ramadan activities into online-friendly activities and was able to organise a successful Grand Iftar charity.
"The Grand Iftar was redirected to communities in dire need of support," Mr Efendic said.
"We’ve managed to set up and complete a charity campaign aimed to feed those stricken by poverty overseas, and have shared this goal with our members."
With the support of Monash University staff and students, the MUIS raised more than $3500 for the Grand Iftar charity.
With local mosques closed, mosque staff have found new ways to engage with worshipers during the Holy month of Ramadan.
Hasan Dogan is a volunteer imam at the Emir Sultan Mosque and has described the lockdown as "unusual" and "exciting".
Mr Dogan has been performing Ramadan rituals according to the Guidance on safe religious practice, which advises new Islamic religious practices for faith leaders in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly virus in Muslim communities.
"I am engaging with worshipers through Zoom by reciting Quran and organising meetings with worshipers where we discuss religious topics and our daily lives," Mr Dogan said.
Despite the regulations on traditional practices, Mr Dogan's online-friendly sermons attract many faithful.
"My zoom sermons usually have about 100 people listening and the community is proud of our efforts."