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For Muslims in central Pa., Ramadan won't be the same this year

Lindsey O'Laughlin
York Dispatch

Muslim worshipers across the world have had to change the way they celebrate Ramadan in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, and worshipers at Hadee Mosque in Harrisburg are no exception.

Hadee Mosque, part of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA, has about 400 members from central Pennsylvania, including York County.

"The Muslims in our community are very clear that we have to follow federal, state, city and county guidelines," said Dr. Ahmad Hameed, spokesman for the mosque.

During the month of Ramadan, which began Thursday and will continue through May 23, Muslims start their day with a predawn meal and prayer, then fast from sunrise to sunset and end the day with an evening meal and prayer.

The virus has changed the way Muslims around the world are observing the Ramadan fast, the same way it changed how Christians observed Holy Week and Jews observed Passover.

In fact, Mecca, among Islam's most venerated cities, was all but deserted Monday, reported the Daily Mail. So, too, was its Grand Mosque.

Muslim men wearing face masks as a precaution against coronavirus men read the holy book of Quran during the first day of the holy fasting month of Ramadan at a mosque in the religiously conservative province of Aceh, Indonesia, Friday, April 24, 2020. During Ramadan, which begins Friday, faithful Muslims normally fast during the day and then congregate for night prayers and share communal meals. (AP Photo/Heri Juanda)

All of Saudi Arabia had been under a 24-hour curfew and lockdown until Sunday, Newsweek reported, when King Salman announced the curfew would be lifted from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in most of the country until May 13.

Saudi Arabia has not yet announced whether the country will cancel the hajj, an annual pilgrimage to Mecca that all Muslims are encouraged to complete at least once in their lives, but the Saudi government did ban foreign travel into the country earlier this year.

Traditionally, Muslims will gather for a communal meal to open the fast, Hameed said, either within families or as a congregation. At Hadee Mosque, the opening meal is usually held on the weekend before the start of Ramadan.

But this year community members celebrated in isolation.

The mosque has canceled communal prayers and asked worshipers to stay home.

Hameed said it's difficult for those who have grown up celebrating Ramadan the same way every year to now pray only in their homes and to forgo the fellowship meals with other worshipers.

Muslim men perform Friday prayer at the distance of about one meter (3 ft) to each other as a social distancing effort to prevent the spread of new coronavirus outbreak at Al Akbar mosque in Surabaya, East Java, Indonesia, Friday, March 20, 2020. The vast majority of people recover from the new coronavirus. According to the World Health Organization, most people recover in about two to six weeks, depending on the severity of the illness. (AP Photo/Trisnadi)

Hadee Mosque is holding Zoom meetings to broadcast daily lectures, and community members are checking in on one another to make sure everyone has the groceries, medicines and other items they need, Hameed said.

As of Wednesday, 44,366 people in Pennsylvania have tested positive for COVID-19, and there have been 2,195 virus-related deaths, according to the state Department of Health.

"We are open to any challenges that come our way, and we are confident that we will learn as we move forward," Hameed said. "This is a very unique situation, and everybody’s adapting to it."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the correct number of people who are members of Hadee Mosque. There are about 400 people.

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