The sweet smell of strong-brewed tea and the soft chanting of prayers greeted visitors at the White Rock Community Centre last Thursday.
Dozens of Muslim community members slipped off their shoes as a sign of respect for their place of prayer, gathered in rows, laid down their mats to face east to Mecca and joined the prayer for Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of a month of fasting for Ramadan.
Organizers noted that this was the first time they were holding the assembly publicly and had invited Peace Arch News to observe the celebration, which is one of the holiest days in their religion.
“It’s like Christmas for Muslims,” said White Rock Muslim Association member and event organizer Ken Khan.
“Today, we celebrate and eat with family and friends and give gifts to the children.”
The Muslim holy day – also known as the Feast of Breaking the Fast – celebrates the conclusion of 29 (or 30 depending on the year) days of dawn-to-sunset fasting.
“It’s a long time. It’s 18 hours of fasting, from 3 a.m. to 9 p.m.,” Khan explained, noting the fast is often broken with a sweet treat.
“But I’ve never heard of anyone becoming ill. It’s because we have spirit. Our spirit keeps us going and gives us strength.
“God is there to take care of our health.”
The timing for Eid al-Fitr is based on the first sighting of the crescent moon (hilal) shortly after sunset. If the hilal is not observed immediately after the 29th day of the previous lunar month – due to weather or if the sky is too bright – then it is held the following day.
A number of traditions also go along with the celebration – which spans three days – including the giving of gifts and wishing other Muslims “Eid Mubarak.”
Donations were collected before the prayer, keeping in the tradition of expressing an act of charity to the poor and needy, followed by a reciting of the Eid prayer, also known as salaat, by Imam Razwan Dabbas.
For the last six years, Khan and members of WRMA (thewrma.wordpress.com) have been holding prayer at a small meeting place on King George Boulevard. However, now that the group is expanding, Khan hopes to one day have a mosque in the community he lives in and loves.
“Slowly more people are coming and the group is growing,” he said. “We thought we should have our own place. That way we can have a place in the community where we can all come together and people in our beautiful peaceful town can find out more about us.”