Each year, weather permitting, the Eid Prayers are held at the Central Park in Peterborough, which sees thousands of members and families praying in congregation. These are held under the open skies in accordance with the traditional practice of the Prophet Mohammed.
People put their best foot forward and come together to exchange Eid greetings. Some families even bring picnics to share after the prayers. There are treats and entertainment for kids as well.
Volunteers from the mosques help set up the prayers on the day, including laying out the prayer mats and arranging other facilities. It’s a true picture of community spirit.
This year however, sadly, the event has been called off, in light of the ongoing pandemic. This is the message from the management:
“Unfortunately, it saddens us to inform you that the Eid in the Park this year Cannot take place due to the ongoing COVID19 & social distancing restrictions. Therefore, There will be NO congregational Eid-ul-Fitr prayers at the park.
“We advise you to #stayhome and adhere to the advice on social distancing in the interest of everyone’s health and wellbeing.
“#StayHomeSaveLives #EidAtHome. Thank you for your understanding, we pray that Allah takes us all out of these difficult times and heals the entire humanity. 🤲🏼 #StayHomeSaveLives #EidAtHome”
Many Muslims felt, this year Ramadan has been different due to the pandemic. Apart from being more stressful for key workers who are fasting, it has also been a sad one and felt ‘unusual’, due to the closure of mosques for many.
Dr Shabina Asad Qayyum and her husband Dr Asad Qayyum both are frontline workers. Asked if this year, fasting felt more strenuous and harder due to the ongoing pandemic, Dr Shabina said it felt the same.
Speaking to Peterborough Matters, Shabina said: “Mine has been no different this year. Because we have been given guidance and recommendations on fasting and its impact on key workers from organisations like British Medical Association and MCB (Muslim Council of Britain), we have been able to manage it okay.
“As a key worker, we are at more risk. It’s important we do a risk assessment of the environment we are working in.
“As with any other year- Life has become busier. But due to the lockdown, you are more stressed and worried about your vulnerable patients. You are constantly making sure they are safe. Concerns like these can take up excess energy. It leads to fatigue and dehydration and can impact health.
“My surgery the Central Medical Centre has been absolutely brilliant in providing us with PPE and managing our workload as well so that fasting in the current pandemic has minimum impact on us doctors.”
Dr Asad Qayyum is a frontline doctor at Peterborough City Hospital. Initially he faced issues with PPE that could have impacted his fasting. But is satisfied with the working environment and helped him continue his Ramadan fasts.
However, some people working in special wards at the hospital are expected to wear a greater amount of PPE which can be physically exhausting especially while fasting. It could even lead to dehydration. Therefore, Dr Shabina stresses risk assessment before fasting is crucial to ensure safety of everyone.
A young girl working on a supermarket floor, who didn’t want to be named, also said her job is very tiring and has become even more so due to coronavirus this year. She said fasting has been tough but worth it, and she looks forward to having the evening meal with her family.
Sister Nadia has had very busy few months. A teacher - by profession, Nadia and her army of women associated with ‘Let’s Make A Difference’, have been cooking and proving hundreds of hot meals every week to vulnerable people in the city. They have also been collecting and proving food parcels and other essential groceries. She is enjoying the delivery rounds, but says it’s not leaving her enough time for praying.
Nadia said: "This year Ramadan has been different. The mosques are shut- that's the biggest drawback. I can’t see my family or friends.
“But I have been very busy this Ramadan- helping people which I am enjoying very much. It’s becoming a full days work. The best part is people have been blessing me and it's wonderful to get these blessings in such a holy month. They are people I don’t know and haven’t met before.
“I have been helping to feed people while fasting- It feels wonderful.
“Some days while delivering the parcels, I get very thirsty and exhausted, but I keep going as it’s for a good cause. And I believe this is part of my worship in the holy month of Ramadan.
"And there are days when I feel like I can’t walk any more- I am not joking but I get a sudden rush of energy. I think God sends angels to help me in this good cause. I know it sounds crazy!
“I think the pandemic has brought out the best in us. For me this has been a different Ramadan but a great one as I have been able to help so many people.”
These thoughts were echoed by Mohammed Tariq who runs the Madina grill Takeaway on Lincoln Road, who believes this is the best Ramadan yet. Being in the kitchen all day and cooking while fasting is tough. Mohammed says it's very tempting no doubt but also you can’t taste what you are cooking so that can be a bit tricky. He too has been providing thousands of meals since the lockdown started, to key workers and vulnerable people in the city.
Mohmmed said: “The pandemic as made me a better human being. I think I have had the best Ramadan so far as I have been able to help so many people and hope to keep going.”
The mosques closed along with other houses of worship in Peterborough in March and will remain closed until further advice from the government.