MERIDEN — Members of the Masjid Al-Rawdah Mosque and the Baitul Aman Mosque of Meriden gathered on Friday to celebrate the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan.
About 400 people from the Masjid Al-Rawdah Mosque gathered early Friday morning at the Meriden Green to pray together. The morning was sunny and clear, so the community was able to gather for prayer and reflection on large tarps facing east. After a brief sermon, the community ended their celebration by sharing hugs, coffee, donuts, croissants and other sweet pastries.
Youssouf Kane Jr. has been a member of the mosque for three years, the same amount of time he’s lived in Meriden. He attended prayer with his wife and three children while wearing a red-and-black outfit his wife brought back from his native Guinea.
“When Ramadan comes, there’s a different energy,” he said. “You see people getting together, eating, having fun.”
Board President Mohamed Chaouki explained that the community gathers to celebrate Eid al-Fitr outside every year, but has been interrupted in recent years because of weather and COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s good to get back to normal and be able to give each other hugs,” he said.
Chaouki added that the community at Masjid Al-Rawdah is very diverse and brings together people from a lot of Muslim countries, reflected by the different kinds of traditional dress worn from community members from different cultures – including a traditional Pakistani Shalwar Kameez and beaded prayer cap worn by Hassan Jehagir. He has been part of the community all his life and said that it helped him pray better and be more flexible while kneeling.
Aya Laachfoubi is a first-year student at Trinity College studying Computer Science and Chemistry and visiting her aunt in Meriden for the holiday. She is from Morocco and wore a pale green Djellaba with neon detailing at the collar and a matching pink hijab.
“You’re supposed to wear the best you have,” she explained.
Later that day, another local Muslim community hosted their own Eid celebration at Vasa Park on Main Street. Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community’s Baitul Aman “House of Peace” Mosque gathered and unrolled their prayer rugs during a ceremony that also included prayer, reflection and a celebratory feast. The mosque’s more than 300 members and their families hail from communities throughout Connecticut and even parts of New York and Massachusetts.
Mosque spokesman Wajid Danish Ahmed described Ramadan as a time for purifying one’s spirit, while also being mindful of those who are less fortunate. He described the purpose of fasting between sunrise and sunset during Ramadan as a “cleansing of the mind and body.” In addition to fasting, members make other sacrifices, and increase their giving toward those in need.
Even though Ramadan is over, Imam Jaaphar Abdul Hameed, from the Masjid Al-Rawdah mosque, encouraged his community to keep the guidance they received during Ramadan throughout the year.
“[Ramadan] is to reform you for the rest of your life and the rest of the year,” he said. “The celebration is not there for you to be happy because Ramadan is over. No. Ramadan is supposed to guide you, to reform you to make you a better Muslim.”
He also encouraged the community to be good neighbors, good hosts, and to continue to give charitably to the poor.
“We are among people that have misinformation about us. How can we change that perception about us?” he asked, and answered. “We need to do that by our conduct, our behavior – your character is what represents your Islam.”
Record-Journal reporter Mike Gagne contributed to this article.
Latino Communities Reporter Lau Guzmán is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms. Support RFA reporters at the Record-Journal through a donation at https://bit.ly/3Pdb0re, To learn more about RFA, visit www.reportforamerica.org.