The Whangārei Muslim community – like any group in and outside of New Zealand – is feeling the effects of social isolation, and even in alert level 3 worshippers won't be able to attend the mosque.
Lockdown is now taking a toll on one of the most important holidays in the Islamic calendar, the holy month of Ramadan that officially started last Thursday.
Traditionally the month of fasting brings the community closer together, however, this year Muslims are staying in the confinement of their bubbles, and while Imam Suhil Musa says it was a necessity to obey lockdown rules, the community was missing out.
He said Muslims were still observing the Ramadan fasting and prayers, just within their homes and not the community as they normally would.
"For myself, I'm doing the prayer and the dinner after sunset with my family at home."
He said that the community still remained in close contact, communicating over the phone to ensure everyone is well.
"We are feeling sad, and we are missing a lot because this Ramadan is very different than the years before. However, safety and the life of the human being come first. In other words, we have to follow the regulations and keep us and others safe," Musa said.
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During Ramadan, Muslims across the globe are fasting food, drinks and – depending on the community and the individual – from various pleasures from dawn until dusk. After sunset, food and beverages are allowed again, and various community-focused rituals mark the night-time.
"When celebrating Ramadan normally we start by sighting the new moon of the month of Ramadan. After sunset, we all go out together and we sight the moon. If we sight the Moon we report to the Muslim community in New Zealand and then they declare the next day is Ramadan," Musa explained.
"We are missing the Moon sighting this year."
The Moon plays an important role because Ramadan is following the Islamic Calendar, which aligns with the Moon's cycles; hence the start of the month falls on a new moon.
"The Muslim community in New Zealand did a video live on Facebook for the Moon sighting this year. Also, people went to observe the Moon sighting individually, not in groups and just around where they are living.
"Also, normally we do our prayers in the mosque, especially the one at sunset. Normally we have someone cook a meal and invite everyone in the community," Musa added.
The sunset prayer is typically followed by a prayer that is specifically dedicated to Ramadan, the Taraweeh, which is not mandatory but observed by many.
Musa said that even though the community felt sad about missing out on the usual social gatherings, it was their priority to follow the instructions and keep themselves and other people safe.
"We support what the Government are doing and think they are doing a really great job."
Musa said the Government said they would be allowed back to the mosque once we reach alert level 2, but there will a limit on the number of worshippers allowed inside at once.