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Australia's Muslim leaders spread messages of reflection, health safety ahead of Ramadan

Members of the muslim community celebrate Ramadan at the Lakemba mosque in Sydney. Source: AAP

Senior Muslim leaders in Australia are passing on messages of hope, reflection and the observance of health measures for the month of Ramadan, which begins on Saturday.

The holy month of Ramadan begins on April 2 in Australia and for millions of Muslims around the world, it is an opportunity for celebration, new beginnings, spiritual renewal and reflection.

Grand Mufti of Australia and the leader of the Australian National Imams Council (ANIC), Dr Ibrahim Abu Mohamed told SBS Arabic24 that Ramadan is, "The month of knowing Allah and liberation from all restrictions that confiscate human freedom and human dignity”.

It occurs in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar and requires healthy adult Muslims to fast each day from dawn until dusk.

Fasting is one of the Five Pillars (duties) of Islam.

This includes abstaining from drinking, eating, smoking, immoral acts and anger/arguments while extra worship such as prayer, reading the Quran and charity are encouraged during the holy month.

In addition, most Muslims prefer to attend mosques, especially after dusk for prayers.

National Grand Mufti of Australia of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils (AFIC), Sheikh Abdul Quddoos Al Azhari, said this year's Ramadan was occurring at a time of great uncertainty.

"As the world continues to struggle with COVID, we see that war has spread to Europe and has brought with it terrible loss of life, displacement and inflation that is impacting on the livelihood of all people," he said.

"There are so many conflicts in our world that have led to displacement and hardship for our Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

"As we experience our spiritual benefits this month, let us think about those in need, let us pray for the human family and generously give to feed our hungry brothers and sisters in many countries."

Sheikh Habib Al Shaher from Imam Ali Islamic Centre in Melbourne said: “In Ramadan, Muslims increasingly perform the (voluntary) and ordinary prayer, supplicate and recite the Qur’an in mosques.”

COVID-safe Ramadan

Despite the lessening of restrictions compared to years past, mosque attendants have been advised to observe health instructions and restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Abu Mohamed explains.

"There are sanitisers and masks, while prayer doers should adhere to social distancing and not getting too close in order to preserve everyone's health,” he said.

We warn people that any person who shows symptoms of cold must stay at home, and that his prayer at home is better than his prayer in the mosque.

As the Islamic calendar is based around the lunar cycle, the holy month of Ramadan rotates by approximately 10 days each year.

Sheikh Habib points out that adult Muslims, “Must fast if they can health-wise or otherwise they do compensatory days of fasting after the end of Ramadan".

Did you know?

  • Pregnant women can participate in Ramadan with their doctor’s clearance
  • Brushing teeth is allowed during fasting hours if water is not swallowed
  • Medication should be taken before dawn and after dusk
  • Suhur is the name of food eaten before dawn during Ramadan while Iftar is the meal eaten after sunset
  • Sick people, breastfeeding mothers and people who must drive long distances aren't obligated to fast during Ramadan but are encouraged to do a “compensation fast” once the Ramadan period is over.

In Australia this year, Ramadan will end on Sunday, May 1, but may change depending on the sighting of the moon.

The month of Ramadan includes the most blessed of nights, known as Laylatul Qadr, also known as the Night of Power, the Night of Glory or the Night of Decree.

Laylatul Qadr is held on one of the last 10 nights of Ramadan and can involve a full night of prayer at local mosques.

Eid al-fitr marks the end of Ramadan and is a three-day holiday where families and communities come together for a feast.

The usual times for the meal after dusk each day, or Iftar, varies depending on the Australian region but will generally be between 5.30pm and 6.15pm ACST. It is common for mosques to offer free food during Iftar.

Iftar, the evening meal, can be enjoyed at a mosque or at home
Iftar, the evening meal during Ramadan, can be enjoyed at a mosque or at home with family.
Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images

“We offer a group Iftar, free of charge, especially for young people and singles who do not have a family (in Australia), which adds a kind of intimacy,” Sheikh Habib said.

Ramadan is also associated with extended family visits and gatherings.

Dr Abu Mohamed said it is traditional for Muslims to visit parents and close relatives’ families during Ramadan as it is an occasion where blood ties are highlighted.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years, home visits are restricted especially where they involve the elderly.

In this regard, Dr Abu Mohamed recommends that: “We would like to warn everyone to reduce visits as much as possible unless there is a necessity.”

Lakemba Night Markets are back after a two-year absence

Ramadan Nights in the Sydney suburb of Lakemba is back this year after a two-year absence due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Thousands are expected to attend the open-air global food bazaar, especially during peak times on Friday and Saturday nights.

Held along Haldon Street, it is easily accessible from Lakemba railway station. 

As in other years, visitors will be treated to a wide range of cuisine prepared and served up at myriad food stalls at the night market.

Road closures will be in place so taking public transportation to and from the event is recommended.