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Fort Morgan Muslims Balance Safety And Tradition For Eid Al-Adha Celebration

Muslims praying in Fort Morgan.
Adam Rayes
Muslims praying on a basketball court in Fort Morgan's Riverside Park for Eid Al-Adha.

Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha on Friday. As with most aspects of life these days, the important holy celebration was different this year because of COVID-19.

About 50 men are on a basketball court in Fort Morgan’s Riverside Park with about 30 women in a field behind them. As cars and trucks zoom down Highway 76 on a hill above, they’re chanting praises to Allah before prayer. Muslims usually pray shoulder to shoulder, toe to toe but almost everybody, including young children, is keeping their distance and properly wearing masks.

“We also informed them earlier, before they come here that they have to have a mask, they have to have a praying mat, there should be, kind of, you know, six feet distances,” said Mohamad Mohamad, the Fort Morgan Islamic Center’s secretary.

Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha on Friday. As with most aspects of life these days, the important holy celebration was different this year because of COVID-19.

Mohamad has a bunch of disposable masks for those who forgot to bring their own tucked into the pocket of his Qamīṣ, a long white tunic traditionally worn in several Arab and African countries.

There are two Eid celebrations each lunar-calendar year. Eid Al-Fitr was at the end of Ramadan in May. It came during stricter lockdown rules, so congregants of the Fort Morgan Islamic Center were unable to celebrate together. Several attendees said having to be isolated during that holy day was difficult.

Before prayer starts, masjid leaders go around asking for donations to help make the Islamic Center’s rent.

They get less than they were hoping for, partially, Mohammad said, due to the economic squeeze COVID-19 has placed on many in the community and the much smaller crowd.

“Not many people attended today because they had that fear (of COVID-19),” he said.

Mohammad says several hundred people usually attend the Eid celebrations. Despite the low turnout, he’s confident the masjid will find a way to pay its rent.

Then the prayer starts. Even with the distance between each other and the imam cutting in and out of the faulty speaker system, the worshippers move and supplicate in harmony.

“Muslims come together and pray to discuss issues affecting the community,” Mohamad said. “As well as pray (for) other Muslim brothers and sisters, as well as the non-Muslims, neighbors. So we also pray for everyone, every living creature in the world.”

Eid al-Adha commemorates the annual pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca and a sacrifice described in the Quran. The prophet Ibrahim was asked to sacrifice his son to Allah, but before he did, God provided a goat to sacrifice instead.

Even with the social distancing and masks, Hodan Karshe feels empowered by the gathering.

“Honestly, words don’t even describe it. It’s just the happiness of your heart,” said Karshe. “Being able to be out here and being with your family and friends and just sharing this moment of spiritual with everyone; in this crazy world it just gives you a moment of relief.”

The Islamic Center will be open for Juma prayer this Friday, but the masjid has asked worshippers to come in on alternate weeks to reduce the number of people in the building simultaneously. Karshe says it was difficult to be disconnected from the masjid, but her faith has been carrying her through the pandemic.

As KUNC’s rural and small communities reporter, I help further the newsroom’s efforts to ensure that all of Northern Colorado’s communities are heard.