For Philadelphia-area Muslims, breaking their daily fast brings a mix of emotions

Sharif El-Mekki prays along with his wife, Fatima, and daughter, Zaynab, 6, inside their Elkins Park home on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. El-Mekki said that growing up overseas, he is used to Iftar-hopping and spending the month with family and friends. This Ramadan is different due to the coronavirus, and the need to social distance.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Sharif El-Mekki prays along with his wife, Fatima, and daughter, Zaynab, 6, inside their Elkins Park home on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. El-Mekki said that growing up overseas, he is used to Iftar-hopping and spending the month with family and friends. This Ramadan is different due to the coronavirus, and the need to social distance.

Another evening had come, and like every evening this Ramadan, the volunteers at the Philadelphia Masjid were working to distribute dinners around the region. The program, done through a collaborative of local mosques and organizations, delivers the bulk of the 200 dinners nightly. They were close to running out Tuesday, so Dr. Tahir Wyatt, executive director of the United Muslim Masjid, sent for more food.

Wyatt said that their large-scale halal dinner delivery, as far as they know, is the first of its kind for their community in the area. This is not a Ramadan like the Ramadans he’s observed in Saudi Arabia, where the country changes their work-life routines, to welcome the holy month. And it hasn’t been a Ramadan that his native Philadelphia is used to, where large community iftars may draw hundreds of people, where some families plan out impressive menus with “a competitive edge” to share after sunset.

Still, for Wyatt, Ramadan during the pandemic hasn’t been all bad.

“I can't really sum that up in one sentence, but if I was to give it a shot, I would say that this Ramadan is a lot more personal,” Wyatt said. “It makes every Muslim deeply reflect about their relationship and their bond with their Creator and for that reason this Ramadan is special. And I don't mean that it's the best Ramadan I've ever had. It's very different.”

There’s been a mix of emotions for many area Muslims. Some say, even through the pandemic’s limitations, it is still a time to reflect and give back, even if that means going without a community feast.

Here are glimpses of what this Ramadan has been like for Muslim families in the Philadelphia area.

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