Thursday, November 18, 2004

Overflow crowds mark Ramadan's end ~ The Montreal Gazette

Overflow crowds mark Ramadan's end

Eid al-Fitr Prayers at Holiday Inn

One of the great feasts of Muslim lunar year draws 1,500 for observances, socializing

Sikander Z. Hashmi
Special to The Gazette

The ballroom at the Holiday Inn Pointe Claire became a prayer room Sunday morning, as the music, tables and chairs were replaced by speeches, prayers, and rows of Muslim faithful.

Men, women, and children, many sporting new clothes, converged on the hotel to offer their Eid al-Fitr prayers. Eid al-Fitr, one of the two great feasts of the Muslim lunar year, marks the end of the holy month of Ramadan, during which Muslims abstain from food, drink and sensual pleasures from dawn to dusk. Ramadhan ended Saturday evening.

An unexpected surge in attendance sent the crowd overflowing into the lobby and organizers arranged for a second prayer to accommodate everyone.

In his sermon, Sheikh Ismail Jogiyat reminded the worshippers that Eid al-Fitr was a time for love, charity and forgiveness.

Muslims must offer charity and look after the poor, Jogiyat said. He reminded worshippers to pay the fitra, a $6 donation that must be paid before the Eid al-Fitr prayer so poor Muslims can enjoy the feast, too.

Organizers began a fundraising drive for the expansion of their Gouin Blvd. mosque prior to the prayer but were cut short when a couple of worshippers voiced their displeasure over coupling fundraising with prayers.

An estimated 1,500 people attended the service, organizers said.

Omar Haniff was one of them and was thrilled by the high attendance.

“This is fabulous; it’s one of the best occasions for me," the Kirkland resident said. "The more people that are here, the more emotional it gets, because we know the importance of Eid al-Fitr. This is good for us."

Adil, a St. Laurent resident who didn’t want his last name published, and his wife came to the Holiday Inn after offering their prayers at the Islamic Centre of Quebec mosque in St. Laurent.

For Adil, the service at the Holiday Inn is also a socializing event.

“Most of the people we know come to the prayer at the Holiday Inn. It’s one of the more, I would say, friendlier atmospheres.

"You see a lot of people meeting each other in a very cordial and happy manner, something I wanted to be a part of.

“The religious aspect is at all prayer places, but there’s just a little bit more here. I find there are a lot of people who know and meet each other very well here. It’s good to see.”

Children received bags of candies and other goodies. Children are usually offered gifts on Eid al-Fitr.

Prayers were also held at other locations on the West Island. Approximately 4,000 prayed at the Canadian Islamic Centre Al Jamieh in Dollard des Ormeaux, which held two prayer sessions to accommodate the large crowds, and about 150 were present at the Islamic Centre of West Island.