Muslims find new ways to celebrate Eid in shadow of pandemic

Sarah Rahal and Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Dearborn — Celebrations to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan for area Muslims had a different look this year under the shadow of the pandemic.

Some held virtual services dedicated to the end of the fasting period. Others had activities that adhered to social distancing required during the cononarvirus scare and offered a scaled back version of what is typically a social and festive event.

Muslims worldwide celebrated one of their biggest holidays this weekend with millions confined to their homes and others gripped by economic concerns during what is usually a festive time of shopping and celebration.

The three-day Eid al-Fitr marked the end of the fasting month of Ramadan for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. People usually celebrate by traveling, visiting family and gathering for lavish meals, all of which will be largely prohibited as authorities try to prevent new virus outbreaks.

The line of cars waiting to enter the Islamic Center of America over the weekend stretched so far on Ford Road, Dearborn police spent hours keeping the queue in the right lane.

Adam Aljabiri, 8, of Dearborn Heights, right, and his sisters Layla, 6, Nora, 6, and Jennah, 7, wait for their bags of candy during the drive-thru Eid al-Fitr celebration to mark the end of the Ramadan fasting month at Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

Officials at the center on Ford Road, believed to be the largest mosque in the country, were determined to keep the holiday spirit alive with drive-thru events on Saturday and Sunday.

Cars join a drive-thru during an Eid al-Fitr celebration and receive pastries, candy and other food to mark the end of the Ramadan fasting month at Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.

Hundreds waited in line with open trunks Saturday when the Dearborn mosque kicked off a drive-thru food distribution. Fifty volunteers prepared more than 1,500 food kits to distribute to local families in need during the pandemic. Halal food and produce were donated from Meijer, Dearborn Police Department and 10 other local supermarkets.

The Islamic Center of America in Dearborn hosted a food giveaway and Eid celebration this weekend.

Instead of heading into the mosque's large hall, people joined the drive-thru celebration, where children couldwave from their cars to their favorite cartoon characters on display, take photos and pick up goodie bags.

“The Covid-19 pandemic won’t break our spirit,” said ICA president Mazen Chehab. "Although we are not able to come together, pray together or celebrate together — our community is united and strong. Our faith brings us together. Our main goal is keep our community members safe and healthy while still being able to celebrate in some small way."

Personal protection instructions are posted on the office doors to the Islamic Center of America.

Sam Baydoun, a Wayne County commissioner, visited the back parking lot of the mosque to thank volunteers for their efforts, saying Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection and giving.

"The Arab American community has been at the forefront during this pandemic, in terms of donating (personal protective equipment) and food to our front-line heroes," Baydoun said. "The generosity of the Arab American community knows no boundaries and it was clearly demonstrated today."

Others, like the Michigan Muslim Community Council, televised its celebration to note the end of Ramadan.

Airing on station WMYT-TV 20 and on social media, the one-hour prerecorded program "Virtual Eid Al-Fitr Celebration 2020" featured messages from the leadership in the Muslim community as well as local politicians.

“During this month of Ramadan, I’ve seen the community more generous than I’ve seen ever before,” said Mahmoud Al-Hadidi, chairman of the Michigan Muslim Community Council. “Our healthcare providers have saved lives at the front-line. Our workers of the supply line kept the economy going and all Muslims have given charity in large number feeding hundreds of thousands families in need.”

In his message Sunday, Mohamed Almasmari of the Imams Council of Michigan, spoke on Ramadan being a month of change and of giving.  

“This was a month of transformation,” he said. “Glad tidings for those that were able to change themselves. Glad tidings for those that were able to better themselves and become better people and better and greater citizens. People are able to give more, people who are able to produce more.”

Numerous politicians recorded messages for the virtual celebration, some noting the unusual circumstances that shadowed the celebrations.

“This is a special time for togetherness and prayer,” he said. “And while that may look different this year compared to the past years, I hope everyone can still find a way to recognize this holy time.”

Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said: “This has been a really strange Eid, I know because of all the circumstances that we’re facing. We can get through this together, especially thanks to the sacrifices so many of first responders and health care workers. Thank you for standing tall for our communities.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan offered greetings on behalf of the city.

“Following a month of fasting, spiritual renewal, forgiveness and gratitude Eid is a time for celebration and service,” he said. So to all our Muslim friends and neighbors celebrating this sacred holiday, Eid Mubarak.

Associated Press contributed

Twitter: @SarahRahal_