MUSLIM communities across Cork are celebrating the month of Ramadan where, across 30 days, people fast from sunrise to sunset.
There are a handful of mosques across the city of Cork, where Muslims gather, especially in the evenings during Ramadan to celebrate it.
Mr Amr Hamad is the Imam of the Togher mosque, the third biggest mosque in Ireland. The mosque serves 500 to 600 people during Ramadan and receives 1,500 during Eid al-Fitr - the big Islamic celebration that follows Ramadan.
Mr Hamad says that they don’t face any difficulty practicing Ramadan in Ireland.
“Alhamdulillah — Thank god — everything is handled smoothly, especially from the community even around us, and Alhamdulillah we feel warm and welcomed from everyone around us from our neighbours, they have a full understanding of our worship,” he said.
“I have the support from my neighbours, and some days they celebrate with me in Ramadan, and some send me texts, and some of them say to me happy Ramadan when they see me in the street. So Alhamdulillah, we have all the support we need from the people around us, and we hope that we are good to them as well.
“We say Alhamdulillah that we are here in this place. We can worship Allah freely without feeling any pressure, and we hope inshallah — god willing — to be a positive part of this country,’’ Mr Hamad added.
Mr Hamad has been living in Ireland for five years. Explaining Ramadan, he says it is the holy month in the Islamic religion.
The month is not just about fasting from food and drinks from sunrise to sunset.
“We fast with our manners, our morals and reform ourselves during the month of Ramadan. We try to be better people.
“In this month, we take it as an opportunity to reform ourselves and live more towards the spiritual life.”
He added that Ramadan doesn’t affect people’s work productivity while fasting.
“People think that Ramadan is the month of laziness, but Ramadan is the month of activeness. So I would say that people get more motivation to work when they fast.”
There’s a huge difference in how people spend Ramadan in different countries. For example, there are celebrations during the month on every single street in the Middle East, and families gather to celebrate together.
But in Cork, the mosque has a program to gather people every evening to break their fast and pray together.
‘’The only place the people they find themselves feeling Ramadan is the masjid (mosque).’’
‘’We feel the spiritual meanings of Ramadan inside the masjid; we encourage the children as well to come to the masjid during Ramadan to feel it,’’ Mr Hamad added.
There is a community of Muslims living here who moved to Cork for many different reasons. Some are working in the tech industry, and some live with their local partners, and a large number of Muslims are working in the health industry.
Dr Aamir Farooq Majeed is the head volunteer of the Islamic centre in Togher and a consultant surgeon, and a senior lecturer in surgery at UCC.
Speaking to The Echo, Dr Majeed said that this is the most important month for all Muslims.
Dr Majeed came to Ireland in 1998 on a postdoctoral program and afterwards worked in different hospitals across Ireland. Then, he settled in Cork in 2003.
As a religious Muslim, he looked for a mosque after settling here, and he visited it regularly when he had a chance out of his working hours.
He wasn’t involved in volunteering or the administration until 2007 when his brother passed away.
“Since my brother suddenly died in 2007 in America, all changed. I got more involved with the mosque and more into the religion to try to understand the sense of this. And from 2011, I became part of the organisation with many brothers. They requested me to come as trustee because the mosque needed someone to look after it. So I agreed.”
Since then, Dr Majeed has added more facilities and activities to the centre and mosque.
He says that the volunteering and the work he does for the centre don’t affect his job as a doctor.
“The job as a doctor is very busy. But where there’s a will, there is a way — you can spare time if you want to.
“In 2008, I became a consultant surgeon. And then I was sparing some time out of that over the weekends to volunteer for the mosque and the Muslim society.”
In 2008, he became a consultant surgeon in UCC, and with time, he realized that he had to put more effort in to balance both things he does and his family responsibilities.
He added that primarily he was helping his daughters in studies as they look to go down similar medical pathways to himself.
“I succeeded, and there’s nobody unhappy; everybody’s happy on all sides. So there is no problem.”
Dr Majeed said that the program they run in the centre happens thanks to volunteers and donators.
In the afternoons, some Muslims who finish work early come to read Quran together in a group called Halaqat Quran with Imam Amr Hamad. The program is to recite Quran to the people and let Muslims read and listen to more Quran than they listen to during the year.
The mosque brings food every day from restaurants and some people volunteer to cook. Additionally, some attendees get desserts, fruits, and juices for everyone.
Afterwards, people gather to pray for one hour, called Taraweeh, and it’s the main part of Ramadan celebrations, Mr Majeed added.