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Mosque welcomes faithful with virus precautions

Islamic Center of Wilson plans Eid al-Fitr celebration

Posted on May 6, 2021

Local newsTop newsCOVID-19
Muslims attend a Friday service at the Islamic Center of Wilson on April 30.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

Muslims attend a Friday service at the Islamic Center of Wilson on April 30.

Najiyyah Aleem of Wilson says Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the Muslim community.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

Najiyyah Aleem of Wilson says Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the Muslim community.

Tawfick Aziz is a senior member and watchman at the Islamic Center of Wilson.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

Tawfick Aziz is a senior member and watchman at the Islamic Center of Wilson.

Muslims attend a Friday service at the Islamic Center of Wilson on April 30.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

Muslims attend a Friday service at the Islamic Center of Wilson on April 30.

Najiyyah Aleem of Wilson says Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the Muslim community.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

Najiyyah Aleem of Wilson says Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the Muslim community.

Najiyyah Aleem of Wilson says Ramadan is the holiest month of the year for the Muslim community.
Tawfick Aziz is a senior member and watchman at the Islamic Center of Wilson.
Muslims attend a Friday service at the Islamic Center of Wilson on April 30.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7818

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a dip in membership at the Islamic Center of Wilson.

Tawfick Aziz, a senior member who serves as the mosque’s watchman, said the center opened in 2017 with 180 men, women and children. The mosque closed when the pandemic began in March 2020.

“We closed all of the rooms completely for almost four months,” Aziz said.

After four months, members were permitted to return to the masjid as long as they stayed 6 feet apart, wore masks, used hand sanitizer and washed their hands frequently to comply with public health guidelines.

Aziz said gatherings were limited to 10-20 people, but most members were initially scared to attend.

Many members have now received vaccinations and are familiar with guidance on protecting themselves and others from the virus.

Aziz said the mosque conducts temperature checks when people arrive.

“Something else we do is you have to bring your own sejjadeh, the carpet,” Aziz said. “You put yourself on it. That’s important. You are responsible for that part.”

Before the pandemic, members would kneel and pray side by side.

“You used to be close to each other,” Aziz said. “Now we are way apart.”

With social distancing, the carpets are about 6 feet apart.

“We lost a lot of people coming because of COVID-19 at the time,” Aziz said. “This year, for 2021, things got better. We have started getting more people. Even new people come in here from the road when they hear about us.”

MOON YEAR

According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 1.8 billion Muslims around the world.

This year, Muslims are observing Ramadan from April 12 to May 12.

Aziz said many people don’t know what Ramadan is.

“It is a month of fasting for the year. It is the ninth month of the Islamic year,” he said.

Aziz said the Islamic year is 355 days long.

Every year, Ramadan is observed 10 days ahead of the previous year’s observance.

“In my lifetime, it has turned twice,” Aziz said. “Each 35 years, it would turn the whole thing around. You go back 10 days each year. You are going back January, December, November, October.”

The shifting dates mean Ramadan is ultimately observed in all four seasons.

“Now you have long days in the summer. You can fast 18 hours from 5 o’clock to 9 o’clock,” Aziz said. “In the wintertime, when it’s short, you can fast only from 7 o’clock until 5, only 10 hours, so it’s short. There is eight hours’ difference between the summer and the winter. This is the basic thing you have to know about the moon year.”

HOLIEST MONTH

“This is going on all over,” said Najiyyah Aleem of Wilson. “No matter what masjid you go to, if you are Muslim, you are doing Ramadan from every masjid all over.”

Aleem, a Connecticut native, moved to Wilson in 2003 at a time when the city didn’t have a mosque. She commutes to the As Salaam Islamic Center in Raleigh.

“Ramadan starts in the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar,” Aleem said. “It’s the holiest month where the Muslims fast. We do not eat or drink anything during the daylight hours. We get up before sunrise and we have a small meal called Suhūr breakfast, and when the sun sets and the end is called for the Maghrib prayer, we break our fast with dates and water, and then we make our prayer and we have our meal. This goes on for 30 days, sometimes 29, but 30 days this month.”

Aleem said that the Quran was revealed to the prophet Muhammad during this month.

“Some of us give up things to abstain from during that month just to focus on the Quran,” Aleem said.

Historically, that would have meant the sacrifice of a goat, but today, it could mean abstinence from smoking cigarettes or having sex. For children, it could be abstinence from eating candy or playing electronic games.

Ramadan is a time of giving and a time of peace for Muslims.

“We read one-thirtieth of the Quran every day during Ramadan,” Aleem said. “In the evening this year, we have a reading group on Zoom because of COVID, and we all take turns reading the Quran.”

At the end of Ramadan, Muslims will celebrate Eid al-Fitr, one of the Islamic faith’s two biggest holidays. The other is Eid al-Adha, when Muslims show that they’re prepared to sacrifice their lives for God.

The Islamic Center of Wilson is inviting its members to celebrate Eid al-Fitr from 9 a.m. to noon Wednesday, May 12.

Aziz said the center has a new imam, Lutfi Hammed, who started leading the mosque in April.

The Islamic Center of Wilson is open from 5 a.m. to 10:15 p.m. daily. For more information, call Aziz at 252-281-5584. 

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