People were openly crying as they arrived at the Islamic Cultural Center of Ireland (ICCI) in Clonskeagh in Dublin for the start of the Eid al-Adha celebrations.
none had seen other members of the Muslim community since the start of the pandemic and hearing the call to prayer coming from the complex that houses its sprawling mosque was a touching moment.
ICCI officials and its Covid compliance officer had liaised behind the scenes with the HSE and various government departments to try to organize some kind of rally for his community this year.
Ultimately, it was agreed that the center could accommodate 350 worshipers in a socially distanced manner over three quick sermons on the first day of Eid last Tuesday.
The complex has a capacity of 2,500 people, so it was far from what the community was used to before the pandemic. But accommodating the restrictions and accommodating 1,050 people in small groups during the day was still a step towards the celebration of the second most celebrated holiday on the Islamic calendar.
After 16 difficult months, it gave Irish Muslims a precious opportunity to unite spiritually with their community around the world.
Elizabeth Kenna, who heads CICI’s social department, said there was a huge wave of emotion for those attending the day.
âPeople were actually crying on the first day of Eid because they missed it so much,â she said.
âWhat happens before the prayer is that we make a lot of calls, praise God and we do it at the microphone around the field so that the people who were praying outside can hear it.
âAnd it’s such a beautiful sound as a Muslim when you walk into the hall.
âAs we come to pray ourselves, we praise God in the car coming because we are going to the mosque. But to get to the mosque and hear it on the loudspeaker with everyone participating again, people cried when they heard that sound because they had missed it so much.
There was a large security team on site to ensure that restrictions were followed and to organize parking, while everyone had to bring their own prayer mat.
Besides the main mosque which can accommodate over 1,000 people, there is also a large seminar room, a multipurpose room and a large balcony.
The organizers decided that unlike the outdoor event held at Croke Park, they would be able to accommodate more people by hosting three socially distanced events spread around the complex.
Dressed in their finest clothes for the occasion, there was a constant stream of people at the center during the day as they went to thank Allah for their blessings.
âWe had a great team on site to handle everything. The people listened to a very short sermon and then left quickly in their cars. We gave each family a bag of treats and a card to celebrate Eid to try and keep it as a souvenir with them, âshe said.
“Previously we would have had games and people would stay on the pitch, but it always went really well and it was a huge moment for them to be able to do it again.”
Elizabeth Kenna is 21 at the center and said it was an ’emotional moment’ for everyone involved in the day and it was wonderful to be able to mark post-pandemic day.
“People had not seen each other for over a year and especially people who would have come from other counties,” she said.
There is also Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan and took place this year in May while Eid al-Adha (Feast of the Sacrifice) commemorates Prophet Ibrahim.
Invited to sacrifice his son Ishmael as a test of his faith, God sent a lamb instead to be sacrificed, which is why the feast is marked by the consumption of any animal, usually a sheep. In Ireland, the local butcher plays an important role in the celebrations.
âThis is the commemoration of the story of Abraham and his son,â Ms. Kenna said.
âWhat happens in Ireland is you go to your local Halal butcher and book your sheep before Eid and many people would give it as a generous donation to families in other countries who cannot celebrate it. Eid This is what the different charities do here: the money is given to them and they pass it on.
Sharing the meat is an extremely important part of the celebration and dictates that one-third of the animal is given to the needy, one-third is shared by friends and family, and one-third is kept for yourself.
The good weather allowed many people from the Muslim community to meet in the parks and green spaces reunite with family members they may not have seen for over a year.
âMuch of the community is in the parks and comes together and the celebrations continue until the end of the week. People who have sacrificed a lamb usually organize barbecues and bring friends and relatives and they can do so this year in limited numbers; it’s wonderful for them, âshe said.
The only tricky part of Eid celebrations had to remind people of the social distancing restrictions at the Islamic Center as people were feeling the full emotional brunt of the post-Covid celebrations.
âThere was a huge wave of emotion and it was very difficult to stop people from coming up and kissing. Emotion comes over them and you say to yourself, “Please remember social distancing, be careful”. You almost feel like an intruder telling people not to do this, but it had to be done.