RIDGEWOOD, N.J. – Muslim families isolated at home during the coronavirus quarantine are missing traditions during the holy month of Ramadan, such as praying at mosques, sharing communal meals and visiting family and friends.
In their place, many find solace, joy and faith by creating prayer spaces inside their houses modeled after the places where they normally would worship.
The result in homes across New Jersey has been a colorful, DIY celebration captured in photos and shared on social media.
“For us, this was a way to create a space for our children, because we knew we wouldn’t be able to take them to mosque this year and have iftar [meals] with family and friends,” Stephanie Aspero said. “It was important to have something, even if it’s just symbolic.”
Decorating one’s home for the holy month, which began in late April, is not a new tradition, but it’s taken on new significance this year because of the isolation wrought by the coronavirus.
Families want to keep the festive spirit of Ramadan, especially for children who look forward all year to the holiday. Ramadan ends Saturday in a three-day celebration called Eid al-Fitr.
Essma Bengabsia, executive director of the New Jersey-based Muslim Network, a coalition of mosques, businesses and other groups, said photos of people’s prayer spaces have popped up on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.
“One person after another put up a picture, and it just picked up a lot of steam,” she said. “People really loved the idea and started crafting their own prayer spaces and mini-mosques at home.”
At her house, Aspero draped purple and gold sheets in the shape of a tent in the den and placed blue and white pillows and a prayer rug on the floor. A string of white bulbs hangs above. She laid out children’s books about Ramadan for her 10-year-old daughter and 5-year-old twins.
“When the lines of work and home get blurred, it’s nice to have a dedicated space for all of it,” said Aspero, 34, a high school English teacher.
In Clifton, New Jersey, Eyad Asmar used materials from his shuttered printing shop to make designs on corrugated plastic sheets resembling old mosque walls with dome roofs. He set up the scene in the family room with a doorway to go inside, where rugs are laid down for five daily prayers and special Ramadan prayers called Taraweeh.
His children, ages 6, 8 and 11, helped him pick out materials and prints for the “mini-mosque.”
“Ever since they were little, we’d go to mosque with them, and they’d get used to the Ramadan spirit,” said Asmar, 38. “I think this helps. They feel like not everything went away.”
Similar displays are popping up around the country, indoors and outside. In Dearborn, Michigan, organizations launched a citywide competition in search of the home with the most festive outdoor decorations for Ramadan.
In Brooklyn, Anesa Vucetovic said she’s seen photos on WhatsApp of people’s displays. In her home, she decorated an area in the foyer with a rug, moon and stars, candles, a banner and lights “to give it that spiritual feeling.” She plans to hoist a balloon arch for the Eid celebration, she said.
Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic calendar, when Muslims believe the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset and focus on prayer, charity and sacrifice.
It’s normally a deeply communal time. At the NIA Masjid and Community Center in Newark, Salma Latif usually leads storytelling and craftmaking programs for kids this time of year. She switched to live online classes for children because of the pandemic. She taught them how to make Ramadan banners and mosque walls with items they might have at home, such as paper, markers and cereal boxes.
“It’s nice to see they’re having this unified Ramadan experience,” said Latif, 28, of Livingston, New Jersey. “They’re making things and sending pictures to each other. It’s really been a great source of joy.”
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Muslims create mini-mosques at home to mark Ramadan amid coronavirus