Ramadan is beginning but many Muslims have vaccines concerns. One Imam in Columbia is calming down concerns.

COLUMBIA- This week, Muslims from all around the world began to celebrate Ramadan.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is a period of fasting from sunrise to sunset, prayer and community. It began on Tuesday.

“Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam," Shakir Hamoodi, the Iman at the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, said. “We fast because it is a command of God, and also we can see it as a benefit to our lives.”

Islamic Center of Central Missouri

Islamic Center of Central Missouri

Ramadan this year is celebrated differently, especially at the Islamic Center. Events to celebrate at the center are in a hybrid format, with some events in-person and others on Zoom. 

Prayers only last about an hour. Masks are required to enter the center, and social distancing guidelines have been implemented. Children under the age of 15 are not allowed to come to the mosque, and elder attendees are recommended to stay at home to minimize the risk, according to the COVID-19 guidelines on the center’s website.

Normally during Ramadan, the ICCM would host the events at the mosque. The mosque would have two prayers every Friday. Prayers at the mosque would last around two hours, potentially even longer, especially during the evening after breaking the fast. The mosque would host cookouts outside the mosque, even inviting non-Muslims to join them in these festivities.

The mosque will still continue to give out Ramadan gift baskets, which has been a constant stable at centers for years. Gift baskets will be given out starting Saturday, April 17, at the ICCM parking lots from 5 to 6 p.m. Volunteers will bring and load the baskets into cars.

This is the second time that the Muslim community has celebrated Ramadan under the cloud of the pandemic, but this is the first time that the Islamic Center doors here in Columbia are open for Ramadan during this pandemic, but with COVID-19 restrictions. Last year, its doors were closed for Ramadan and all of the events and programs to celebrate the Holy Month were fully on Zoom.

“We acted immediately, during the same evening (MU’s) chancellor announced he’s going to stop the in-person classes,” Hamoodi said at the time to the Columbia Missourian.

The mosque door closing last year was a difficult pill for many in the community to swallow.

“It was a heartbreaking feeling,” Muhammad Waheed, a sophomore at University of Missouri who regularly comes to the center, said. “Ramadan is this very communal event with the community.”

“When the center was closed, you were celebrating on your own. It is usually fun, and celebrating with your community. It was just a heartbreaking feeling," Waheed added.

Ramadan comes at a tough time for many Muslims. With vaccines being distributed and some restrictions being lifted all around the country, there are concerns from the community about getting the vaccine. Many Muslims fear that getting the vaccine could break their fast.

“I got asked about (the concerns of getting the COVID-19 vaccine during Ramadan) the first night,” Hamoodi said. “I said clearly to them that the vaccine, while you are fasting, will not break your fast.”

“If you take the second vaccine and if you feel that you have a fever, or your body is weak, it is okay to break your fast also for one or two days or however long it takes depending on your immune system.”

The National Muslim Task Force on COVID-19 (NMTF) and the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition (NBMCC) issued a Ramadan advisory urging Muslims to continue vaccinations through the holy month. The advisory was signed by 24 Muslim community organizations, according to CNN.

“The Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do not contain pork or alcohol and were not made using aborted fetal stem cells,” NMTF and NBMCC said in the release. “The Johnson & Johnson vaccine does use cell lines from aborted fetal stem cells, but many Islamic leaders have said its use is still permissible "given the societal and individual health needs to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus."

Hamoodi, who has received both doses of the vaccine, also feels that the Muslim Community here in mid-Missouri has done a good job at not being too concerned at getting the vaccine.

Ramadan will end on Wednesday, May 12 at sunset.

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Members of the Muslim community in mid-Missouri praying on Ramadan.