ESTEVAN - The Estevan Islamic Centre opened its doors for community members to indulge in their culture and learn more about the month of Ramadan and associated traditions.
Settlement Workers in School and Transition Estevan, along with Southeast Newcomer Services, reached out to the Estevan Islamic Centre to find some opportunities for their participants to learn more about their traditions and the local community. In response, they received an invitation to join the group at the local mosque or masjid on Fourth Street on April 22 for Iftar, which means breaking fast, one of the evening meals during the month of Ramadan.
About 35 people shared the dinner and spoke about Islamic traditions that night.
"We were invited to participate, it was absolutely delightful," said Debbie Hagel, SNS executive director, adding that it was the first time she experienced Islamic culture and really enjoyed the night.
"I think one of my takeaways is that we have more in common than we don't. It was great to see families celebrate Allah or God. It was delightful as far as the meal and the festivities that went along with the meal, and prayer. And it just felt very much like a family holiday, a family celebration, very similar to Christian celebrations and family holidays."
She noted that while the Islamic community in Estevan is not as large as it used to be, as several families left over the past few years due to work, they are a thriving group, and they look into more ways to engage with the broader community.
Islamic community volunteer Shoaib Muhammed said that before COVID, the local Islamic community arranged bigger events to share their culture with more people.
"Hopefully we will do it again next year," Muhammed said.
Currently, the Islamic community of Estevan consists of seven families and about 30 people. A few years ago it was closer to 75. Back then they were more involved with the larger community, actively raising money for the hospital, charities and organizations, but that was put on pause due to the pandemic. Now that the restrictions are over, the Islamic centre is again looking for opportunities to support local organizations and get more engaged with the rest of the city.
During the night at the mosque, Islamic community members talked about their religion and traditions and answered their guests' questions.
"That's what culture is all about. It is a mosaic of different colours, different experiences and different practices. That's how you learn. And that's the beauty of a community [to have many different cultures allowing us to learn from each other]," Muhammed said.
Guests asked if any of the Islamic community members ever experienced any hardship practising their faith in Estevan. It turned out that the experiences were good for everyone present. Some of the guests also wanted to know more about fasting rules and how it works for children.
In the presentation about Islam, Muhammed explained that Ramadan is the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar and is the fourth pillar of Islam. During this month, Muslims fast all day from dawn to dusk, and they don't eat or drink anything during the day.
For Muslims, fasting during Ramadan becomes obligatory at the age of 14, but if kids want, they can start earlier. Muhammed added that if a person is travelling, sick, pregnant or can't fast for some other important reasons, they can complete the missing days afterwards. Also, if a person cannot keep fast due to age or weakness, they can give money equal to the amount of three daily meals to a hungry person or feed someone who is hungry to compensate for the missing fasting days.
Islam is an Arabic word which means "surrender, submission, commitment and peace." Thus, Islam can be defined as a path to attain complete peace through voluntary submission to the divine will, Muhammed explained.
Islamic faith is centred around belief in the one God (Allah) and the Prophet Muhammed is Allah's last messenger and prophet. Islam teaches to believe all messengers from Allah, from the first prophet Adam to the last prophet Muhammed. All the prophets preached the same universal message of belief in one God and kindness to humanity.
Muhammad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia around about 1,450 years ago. He grew up in a society of superstitious people and social and economic injustice. The people were worshipping many gods and had forgotten the message of the prophet Abraham to worship one God. Muhammad, when he was about 40 years old, received a revelation from Allah through the angel
"Allah" is simply the Arabic word for God. In Islam, Allah is the creator of the whole universe, heaven and hell, there is nothing equal to Allah; he was there before the creation of this universe and Allah will be almighty forever. He never sleeps, never eats nor does Allah have family, Allah is alone and unique.
Muslims have seven major beliefs. They believe in one God (Allah), in the angels, in the holy books sent to all the prophets including Torah that was revealed to the prophet Moses, the Bible that was revealed to the prophet Jesus, and Qur'an (Koran) that was revealed to the prophet Muhammad. They also believe in all the prophets sent by Allah from Adam, Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. Although Muslims believe in Isa or Jesus, they don't think of Jesus as the son of God the way Christians do. Muslims also believe in the Day of Judgment and life after death, and the best reward for performing good deeds is getting closer to Allah. They believe in divine decree. This means that Allah is all-powerful and nothing can happen without His permission, however, he has given human beings the freedom to choose whether to be good or bad. In the end, everyone will be questioned about how they lived in this life. Finally, Muslims believe in heaven and hell and that heaven is the reward for those who led their lives according to the directions of Allah to please Him and hell is punishment for those who did not.
Islam is based on five pillars. These are guides for daily life for putting the beliefs of Muslims into practice:
•Shahadah (declaration of faith) – to bear witness or testify that there is no god except one God (Allah) and Muhammad is Allah's last prophet or messenger.
•Salat (ritual prayer) – the five daily prayers are performed at different timing of the day. The prayers are offered in the Arabic language and have to be faced in the direction of Mecca.
•Zakat (alms tax) – Giving 2.5 per cent of all your year-around savings (including cash, jewellery, property if you are getting income from it and livestock) of one's wealth to the poor and needy.
•Sayam (fasting) – Muslims fast during the first prayer to the fourth daily prayers hours in the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar called Ramadan for 29 or 30 days. The purpose is to remind people of the goodness of what they have, show equality with the poor and to recognize religious duty to help the less fortunate. Ramadan is a time for extra prayers and self-discipline.
•Hajj (pilgrimage) – Every Muslim whose health and finances allow it must make at least one visit to the holy city of Mecca, in present-day Saudi Arabia. The Ka'ba, a cubical structure covered in black covers, is at the center of the Haram Mosque in the city of Mecca. Performing Hajj is also following the practices of Prophet Abraham (Ibrahim in Arabic). Since the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims face towards Kaaba's direction when they pray from all around the world. Hajj is performed in the final month of the Islamic calendar.