Australia

An Eid like no other for Victoria's Muslim community

If these were normal times, Inaz Janif and husband Rasheed would have begun their chaotic day before dawn.

It would have started by coaxing their children out of bed - Izdihaar, Amira and little Ibrahim, who is celebrating his first Eid - for their traditional early-morning breakfast of Samai, a Fijian-Indian vermicelli milk pudding with almonds and sultanas.

Inaz Janif with her husband Rasheed and their kids, Izdihaar, 9, Amira, 1, and Ibrahim, 3 weeks at their home in Hampton Park

Inaz Janif with her husband Rasheed and their kids, Izdihaar, 9, Amira, 1, and Ibrahim, 3 weeks at their home in Hampton ParkCredit:Luis Enrique Ascui

The mosque would have hosted prayers and celebrations from about 7am, after which the family would have hopped in the car to visit friends and relatives, all the while coordinating times with all the friends and relatives also trying to visit them.

The kids would have been lavished with presents and filled their stomachs with sweets across Melbourne’s suburbs.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, and again after, such are the Eid al-Fitr celebrations for many of Victoria’s 200,000-strong Muslim population.

Like Easter, Anzac Day and Mother’s Day before, the Islamic holy day, which begins on Sunday to end the month-long observance of Ramadan, will be kept to small family groups. Prayers will be at home and the feasts markedly less extravagant.

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But the central tenets of the holy month and its closure have not been dimmed or diverted, says Adel Salman, vice-president of the Islamic Council of Victoria.

“People have still been fasting as normal, still doing prayers as normal and still giving to charity as normal,” he says.

"The two fundamental differences is that we haven't been able to have family and friends over for iftar (breaking the fast in the evenings). That's been quite a shock to the system. In our family, every first day of Ramadan we have the whole family on both sides over here. That's a lot. The house is rocking.

"And number two, not being able to go the mosque, which is such a big part of being Muslim.

“But if anything, people are spending more time in reflection. In some ways, it's been a blessing, and some ways it's been a challenge.”

The lunar month now ended is special to Muslims as it recalls when God revealed the Koran, the Islamic holy book, to Prophet Muhammad beginning in the year 610.

It is a time of prayer and abstinence for Muslims. Those who are able will fast from first light to sundown and often use the month to give away 2.5 per cent of their wealth to those less fortunate, as required under one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

“It’s one of the most important times in the year for us,” Ms Janif says. “We look forward to it because it’s like a spiritual boot camp where you focus on becoming the best version of yourself in that month and, therefore, hopefully carry that on for the rest of the year.”

Ms Janif, who gave birth to Ibrahim in the first week of Ramadan, has also found a silver lining amid the coronavirus restrictions.

“A beautiful thing is that during this Ramadan, it’s been online,” she says. “People are providing prayers, or Koran recitations or just educational talks, which means someone like me, a mum with a baby, is able to access. In the past you’d have to go to the mosque.”

Today, Ms Janif and the family will visit her parents' house, while well-wishes with their wider circles will be extended over the phone.

“My eldest is disappointed because she’s used to visiting her family and friends, but she also understands that we’re doing this to stay safe, for everyone’s sake.”

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