There may be no Grand Iftar or collective gatherings this year, but that hasn’t stopped Bristol’s communities finding ways to unite people during Ramadan.
“We are literally welcoming everyone with our arms open,” says Kiran Suman Malik, one of the driving forces behind Humanitarian Bristol – Covid-19, speaking on BBC’s The One Show on Thursday.
The group’s efforts to distribute vital supplies to those in need and bring people together through a special socially distanced community Iftar project have gained national attention.
“You don’t have to be a Muslim, you don’t have to have any religion, it’s about people collectively coming together and breaking food,” says Anira Khokhar, the founder of Humanitarian Bristol, speaking on The One Show.
Along with the distribution of more than 350 meals, the volunteers are also giving out Eid gift bags for children, which include a greeting card challenge competition.
Eid-U-Fitr, the Festival of Breaking the Fast, is an Islamic celebration that is announced according to the sighting of the new moon, marking the end of the month-long dawn-to-sunset fasting of Ramadan.
Usually a time of great celebration and coming together with friends and family, the occasion this year will look markedly different due to lockdown restrictions.
But that hasn’t stopped the spirit of giving and sharing traditionally practiced during Ramadan.
A mass coordinated effort, involving Muslims 4 Bristol and Bristol Somali Voice, saw hundreds of hot meals delivered to key workers and vulnerable groups across Bristol on Thursday.
“It was like an early Eid,” says Mohammed Elsharif, of Muslims 4 Bristol, speaking about the big day of action. “People are giving out and sharing at this special time.”
He continues: “It’s a difficult time because Eid is about celebrations with family and friends, but people understand it’s an exceptional time and they will find ways to celebrate at home.”
Bristol Muslim Strategic Leadership Group (BMSLG), the team behind a multi-language coronavirus advice film, is also reaching out in solidarity with vulnerable residents in Bristol through a card competition project.
Children were given the opportunity to make an Eid card and the winning design, created by Ayesha and Yusuf Ahmed (aged 11 and seven), and Daneya Abumatar (nine), has been printed and distributed to 120 care homes, refugee families and others across the city.
Working in collaboration with Avon & Somerset police, BMSLG members have also produced a special Eid video in eight different languages, including Punjabi, Urdu, Arabic, Somali, Turkish, Dutch and French.
It includes messages from mayor Marvin Rees and police chief constable Andy Marsh, and reiterates social distancing guidance during the weekend of May 23, when Bristol’s 30,000 muslims are celebrating Eid.
Dr Adeela Shafi MBE, one of BMSLG’s founding members, says: “Eid is a time of great celebrations with many friends and family, but this year, we spread the message of how we can celebrate at home.
“As the mayor’s and chief constable’s messages show, we also wanted to thank Muslim communities for following the guidelines and to wish everyone a wonderful Eid Mubarak.”
It’s a message that Khalil Abdi, the founder of Bristol Horn Youth Concern, is also keen to share.
“At this time, people would usually be coming together for communal prayers and celebrations – it’s the best day of the year and people celebrate with friends and family and give gifts,” Khalil tells Bristol24/7.
“We are really encouraging people to adhere to the stay at home guidelines, stay in and celebrate in your homes. Covid-19 remains a real threat to all communities.”
He adds that many people are staying in touch with friends and loved ones through the use of technology, which enables them to share celebrations online.
“The lockdown has affected every household in some way or other,” says Saed, who has been leading on collaborative efforts to distribute vital supplies to those in need for the last eight weeks.
He adds: “It’s very important at this crucial time to celebrate Eid while protecting ourselves and others and the NHS.”
On Tuesday, May 26, celebrations continue with Muslim Women Talking – Eid for Everyone, an interactive webinar with an inspirational panel of Muslim women from diverse backgrounds.
Organised by Interculture, it will be a chance to hear stories and ask questions about Ramadan, Iftar or Eid in a safe non-judgemental space and will include spoken word performances by Muneera Pilgrim and Shagufta Iqbal.
Find out more and book tickets for the event via www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/muslim-women-talking-eid-for-everyone-tickets-105142407772.
Main photo courtesy of Bristol Somali Voice