Darwin Muslims welcome traditional return of Ramadan after years of COVID restrictions

Imam at Darwin masjidThe holy month of Ramadan began last weekend across the world. During the month Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food and drink. The Darwin Mosque hosts around 400 Muslims every night.

Ari Wibowo and Imam Abdullah Ali have little in common.

Mr Wibowo converted to Islam four years ago and is a professional fisherman, while Imam Ali Abdullah is the recently appointed prayer leader of the Darwin Mosque, also known as a masjid. They have one similarity: this is the first time both are spending Ramadan with the Darwin Muslim community.

Mr Wibowo, who spent his past three Ramadans at sea, said he was enjoying the “welcoming atmosphere” at the mosque. “Some people do judge the book by this cover, but it’s alright… Darwin welcomes everyone, that’s a good community,” he said, pointing out his tattooed arm. Having moved from Melbourne less than a month ago, Imam Abdullah Ali shares a similar sentiment.


Ari Wibowo
Ari Wibowo converted to Islam four years ago and is a professional fisherman.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

“The Darwin Muslim community isn’t as big as other cities… but the nice thing is that you see many people coming in,” he said. They have joined nearly 400 Muslims gathering every night at the Darwin Mosque at Wanguri since the holy month of Ramadan began last weekend.

It’s not just starving

Muslims are required to fast from dawn to dusk for the entirety of the month, rejecting food and drink while the sun stays up.


Salat during ramadan
Observing Ramadan was made difficult around the world during the pandemic.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

They believe fasting is a time for worship, charity, self-discipline and restraint. “Fast doesn’t only consist of abstaining from food and water… it’s also abstaining from intimacy during the day [and] also, foul language,” Imam Abdullah Ali said. Ramadan also is a time to feel empathy towards the less fortunate — and experience the health benefits of fasting.

“In Australia, we are very blessed, we have food… we still have the basic needs but in many places they don’t have that,” he said.


Syead Rakib Ahmed is volunteering
Syead Rakib Ahmed is volunteering at the Darwin Mosque.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

He said Ramadan gives Muslims a chance to “reset” and align themselves with Allah’s will as it is also the month when the Quran was revealed.

“So it is a very special month that we really look forward to for 11 months, so when it does come, we are really excited,” he said.

‘Eating together is harmony’

In addition to the spiritual, there is the social aspect of Ramadan, in particular, the emphasis on getting together at the end of the day to break the fast together, a meal known as Iftar.


A man looks up during prayer at the Darwin Mosque.
A man looks up during prayer at the Darwin Mosque. Ramadan runs through the entire month of April. (ABC News: Hamish Harty )

Darwin, although a small community, sees people from more than 10 nationalities and spanning four continents gathering for this meal at the mosque at Wanguri.

President of the Islamic Society of Darwin, Shakil Ahmad, said it was a massive undertaking to prepare food for more than 400 hungry, fasting Muslims. “There’s a lot of effort, we need lots of volunteers to help us,” he said.


Shakil Ahmad is the president of the Islamic Society of Darwin.
Shakil Ahmad is the president of the Islamic Society of Darwin. “This is the best Ramadan coming up for us now,” Mr Ahmad said.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Islamic Society Darwin Secretary and volunteer Sophia Feroz Khan said she treats the feasts as a “great opportunity.” “Volunteering is a blessing from God,” she said.
Ms Khan said it was “very important” to bring the community together during Ramadan.

“We bring all the people together during this event… so everyday we can see each other, our friends, family, everyone, so we are all happy here,” she said. “The other aspect is there are many students studying here who don’t have family here, they might feel left out.”


Ms Feroz Khan
Ms Feroz Khan says volunteering during Ramadan is a special privilege.(ABC News: Peter Garnish)

Mr Ahmad said it wasn’t really about the food, but rather who it was eaten with. “In Ramadan, if we’re eating alone, it’s one of the worst thing we can do,” he said.

“Eating together is harmony.”

Due to the pandemic, achieving that harmony in recent years has been difficult for Muslims across the world, and Darwin was no different. “It was really difficult for us when the pandemic was on, but Alhamdulillah [praise be to God] we were actually doing ‘drive through’ Iftar that time,” he said.

“It was hard for the community, we couldn’t even pray inside that time.” “[It’s] very good to see everybody come together and pray together. “This is the best Ramadan coming up for us now.”

Ramadan an opportunity for understanding


Imam Abdullah Ali says all are welcome to the Darwin Mosque
Imam Abdullah Ali says all are welcome to the Darwin Mosque.(ABC News: Hamish Harty)

Imam Abdullah Ali said Ramadan was also a “very good opportunity” for Muslims in Darwin to interact with the rest of the community and make a positive impact. “There is a misconception of Islam itself… people are not sure if they should ask questions,” he said.

He said Ramadan provides a “nice occasion” for people from different faiths and backgrounds to come together, break bread and understand each other better. “I’d just like to invite everyone to come over to Darwin Mosque and even if they’re not fasting, break the fast with us,” he said.

“It’s a nice occasion to get know each other… and a friendly way of socialising.”

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