Mustafa Zakreet, on left, and his brother Ahmad help teach their friends’ children, Hamza and Omar Al Saloum, how to swim in 2018. (File photo)

Mustafa Zakreet, on left, and his brother Ahmad help teach their friends’ children, Hamza and Omar Al Saloum, how to swim in 2018. (File photo)

Former Syrian refugee in Shuswap shares his love for Ramadan

Salmon Arm resident looks forward to the holy month of fasting all year

The joy in Mustafa Zakreet’s voice is unmistakable when he speaks about Ramadan.

Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, began on the evening of Thursday, April 23 in North America and will end in the evening on Saturday, May 23.

“I just love it. I wait for this time of year,” smiled Zakreet, the first Syrian refugee to arrive in Salmon Arm in 2016.

He agreed to talk about Ramadan and how the coronavirus might affect it.

“It changes everything,” he said.

Normally, after the first day of fasting during Ramadan, a group of people would break the fast together. There would be a night prayer for the group.

Although at the time of the interview he wasn’t sure exactly how everything would unfold, he expected people would be doing prayers at home and then perhaps having phone calls to discuss the Holy Book. He will be following what the Islamic Centre in Kelowna does.

Read more: Wage subsidy program to help fund faith as congregations face COVID-19 crunch

Read more: Shuswap’s first Syrian refugee wants world to stop dictatorship

“We believe that the Holy Book was revealed during this month, during Ramadan. It’s one of the main Islamic pillars. There are five pillars and it is one of them,” he said. “It’s a time to put down all the habits and try to make connection with God. Reflect on our lives, spend time with friends, family, giving charity, helping others, this is what Ramadan is about.”

Although the amount of time spent fasting can vary from place to place, he checked the solunar tables for this area. He said the fast would begin about 3:30 a.m. and end around 8:20 p.m., about 16.5 hours, getting slightly longer each day as the light advances.

There is no food, no water, no smoking, no sexual activity during the fasting, he said, but Muslims still carry on with jobs or schooling. He said there are exceptions; for example, people who are ill, pregnant women and women who are nursing don’t fast at all.

“Basically, everything that you used to do in your day is prohibited; you just focus on having that strong connection with God, that’s the point of it.”

Asked if he gets hungry, he said, yes, absolutely. The idea is to understand how someone who is poor and hungry feels. Asked about feeling faint, he is quick to reply.

“No, not at all, I’ve been trained. I used to fast when I was a little kid, 12 years old, 13 years old. To us it’s normal, we love it.”

He said his dad would suggest that he fast for three hours when he was young, perhaps delaying his breakfast for an hour. He might be rewarded with a prize or money.

Following prayers and food after each day’s fasting, people will wake up about 2:30 a.m. to have a light meal, probably a piece of fruit and a glass of water. Then they go back to sleep and wake up as normal.

As a child, he was very curious why people were eating in the middle of the night, he laughs.

Read more: CMHA branch offers connection tips during pandemic

Read more: Devastation of Syria, loss of family cast shadow over refugee’s life in Salmon Arm

Zakreet’s favourite part of Ramadan has been all the connections.

“We would do a lot of activities; we would be doing a lot of prayers with friends – hundreds of people, thousands of people sometimes at the mosque at night. After breaking the fast, do a prayer and then go out and hang out with friends; it’s just a beautiful time.”

Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr, a four-day celebration after the holy month of fasting.

“That’s the duty of every Muslim to give charity to the poor,” he said.

Asked if there is anything he would like people to know during Ramadan, Zakreet explained how best to greet Muslims during this time. The words translate as, ‘have a blessed Ramadan.’

“You would say Ramadan Mubarak if you want to greet a Muslim friend,” he said. “That’s always a good thing for people to learn.”



marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

#Salmon ArmIslamRamadan

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A GoFundMe page has been launched for a Vernon man whose BX orchard property home off Pleasant Valley Road near Stickle Road was totally destroyed in a fire Saturday, April 17. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Fundraising campaign launched for Vernon man who lost home to fire

A GoFundMe page has been started by family; man taken to hospital with injuries from fire

Armaan Dhaliwal hands a cheque for $500 to Shuswap Hospital Foundation president Angie Spencer as his proud grandparents Gordie and Nancy Dhaliwal watch on Friday, April 16. (Jim Elliot/Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm boy’s samosa sales benefit hospital foundation

Armaan Dhaliwal was able to give the Shuswap Hospital Foundation a $500 donation

School District 83 trustees are expected to be discussing the current Long Range Facilities Plan options at the April 20 school board meeting. (File photo)
Letter: Let the people have their say on Salmon Arm school options

Parent encourages School District 83 board to hold off on making a decision

Each spring, the Okanagan Fest-of-Ale is held in Penticton. This year, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will not be held. However, beer is still available. How much do you know about this beverage? (pxfuel.com)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about beer?

Put your knowledge to the test with this short quiz

The Salmon Arm Silverbacks are locked in stiff competition with the Vernon Vipers and West Kelowna Warriors in their BCHL bubble. (File photo)
Salmon Arm Silverbacks adapting to packed pod season schedule

The team is locked in tough competition with the Vernon Vipers and West Kelowna Warriors.

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

This is what’s left of a truck that caught fire at Pyramid Provincial Park off Highway 97 near Summerland Saturday night. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Photo Gallery: Truck gutted by fire at popular Okanagan park, trees saved

Just a metal shell of what once was a pick up truck is left at the scene

A syringe is loaded with COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to open up COVID vaccine registration to all B.C. residents 18+ in April

Registration does not equate to being able to book an appointment

(Black Press file photo).
Multiple stabbings at Vancouver Island bush party

Three youths hospitalized after an assault in Comox

Selina Robinson is shown in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday November 17, 2017. British Columbia’s finance minister says her professional training as a family therapist helped her develop the New Democrat government’s first budget during the COVID-19 pandemic, which she will table Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. finance minister to table historic pandemic-challenged deficit budget

Budget aims to take care of people during pandemic while preparing for post-COVID-19 recovery, Robinson said

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Firefighters battled a burning home on farmland in the north end of Vernon Saturday, April 17, 2021. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Homeowner taken to hospital after Vernon home destroyed by fire

Firefighters engaged in a lengthy battle against the engulfed structure Saturday afternoon

Members of the Okanagan Screen Arts Society received a cheque for $1,500 Thursday, April 15, 2021. The funds are to help the society’s efforts as they prepare take over operation of the Vernon Towne Cinema at the end of July. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)
Okanagan dealership gives local cinema a lift

Vernon Watkin Motor Ford, in business for more than 100 years, donated to the theatre with nearly as long a history

Vernon Jubilee Hospital. (File photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared over in surgical unit of Vernon hospital

The outbreak affected four staff, 10 patients and led to three deaths in just over two weeks

Most Read