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Calgary Muslim community pursues faith and charity despite COVID-19

Members of Calgary’s Muslim community retained their faith, charity, and community support amid COVID-19.

Places of worship were under lockdown as the province braced for COVID-19. Religious services were limited due to public health rules in place.

This initially was a big hit to the Ahmadiyya community since they were keen to have members coming to the mosque daily.

Many members would take part in their daily five prayers at the mosque along with classes for youth and sports teams.

“Throughout this whole lockdown period, our membership was not at all neglected,” said Asif Arif, Imam at Ahmadiyya Baitun Nur Mosque in Northeast Calgary.

He said that the community was constantly in touch with one another. The community held online classes for their youth and encouraged members to maintain their faith.

Imam Arif said that not only were the members of the Mosque being helped out but also the community of Calgary at large.

The Ahmadiyya community is well known for its charity work. They have a charity brand called Humanity First. According to the official humanity’s first website, their work ranges includes feeding the homeless, disaster relief and food banks.

The community had launched a neighborhood helper campaign right when the lockdown was initiated. The community set up a hotline where anyone would call for COVID-19 relief.

This helped many across the city with getting groceries, prescription medications, and food donations.

Stage one – return to worship

On June 1st Alberta began stage one of their relaunch strategy and set guidance for places of worship. This allowed no more than 50 people, or 1/3 of building capacity, whichever is less.

The Baitun Nur Mosque resumed two out of the five daily Muslim prayers for fellow worshipers.

In the Muslim faith, it is considered a greater blessing to come to the mosque and pray in congregation.

The community encouraged fellow members to pray in congregation at home with their families.

Those who chose to come had to register and give their contact information, if an outbreak was to happen these members could be reached to easily.

“All the protocols that were put in place by the Alberta government, we had,” said Imam Arif.

Members of the community have their temperature taken upon entrance. Worshipers are also told to bring their prayer mats from home and face masks were mandatory.

Members were praying in the gym of the Mosque if not at home. Markings had been placed, where each member should stand for prayer to keep the physical distance.  Praying in the gym allowed easy sanitation to take place after each prayer.

In the Islamic faith, Fridays are a sacred day of worship. There’s a sermon that takes place followed by congregational prayer. It’s a day where many came together.

COVID-19 interrupted this practice taking place in person. Despite this block, the community set up weekly sermons for their members. A live stream link was sent via email to members so they were able to listen at home together as families.

Those who chose to come to the mosque on Fridays had to book a ticket to ensure the number of people allowed didn’t exceed public health rules.

“We had a proper online registration where a ticket was issued, when 50 tickets had been issued to 50 members, that online registration for the Friday prayers would automatically terminate,” said Imam Arif.

Stage two worship grows

Once Alberta went into stage two of the relaunch strategy, the government mentioned no cap on the number of people, with public health measures in place, for worship places.

Currently, the Baitun Nur Mosque allows 150 members to come for all five daily prayers and Friday congregational prayer.

Members are returning to pray in the designated prayer hall instead of the gym while still required to follow all safety guidelines.

The community hopes that things return to normal soon. Taking is day by day, with the uncertainty of what the future might hold. Classes online will continue to be held. Friday sermons will continue to be through live streams.

“We as a community will always follow the guidelines given by the Alberta government. Whatever instructions the local authority gives us, we will go accordingly,” said Imam Arif.