Thousands of worshippers from Norwood’s North Bronx Islamic Center were looking forward to the annual, collective prayer service observance, known as Eid al-Fitr on the football field of Williamsbridge Oval Park to mark the end of Ramadan in May. The weather, however, forced them to move services indoors.
The leadership team at the Islamic Center was forced to make alternate plans due to rainfall the night before the May 2 holy day. “We had permission [for Eid al-Fitr prayers] in Oval Park,” Mohammed Hussain, secretary of the North Bronx Islamic Center, told Norwood News. “But due to weather conditions, it’s raining outside, so there is no way we could go on the field and do the prayers.”
Forced to make do with a smaller venue, and in order to accommodate all worshippers, three smaller-sized prayer services were held at the mosque instead of one large one at the park. “We did three jamaats [praying in assembly] in our mosque. One started [at] 7:30 [a.m.], and [a] second jamaat started [at] 8:15 [a.m.] and now the third jamaat [starting] at 9:05 [a.m.].” Asked how many attended each prayer service, Hussain estimated the number at “about a thousand people each time.”
Eid al-Fitr means “the feast of breaking the fast.” The “fast” refers to the month-long observance of Ramadan which requires Muslims to fast from sunrise to sundown. It reminds worshippers of the revealing of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. With a global religion such as Islam, specific religious practices can vary from country to country, but what is common to all Eid al-Fitr celebrations is special morning prayers, during which worshippers are encouraged to seek forgiveness while also forgiving others.
Although the single prayer service in Oval park would have provided a unique opportunity for worshippers to gather and enjoy fellowship all as one, changing to three services did not dampen the spirits of the mosque’s members. Jakaria Saha serves as assistant secretary and attended the first jamaat at 7:30 a.m. He was looking forward to the service at the park but said he was philosophical about the change in plans. “Actually, [the rain] is, God willing, so we can’t do anything [about] Mother Nature,” Saha said.
“We were [expecting] 3,500 to 4,000 people at Oval Park,” he added. Inside the mosque, Saha estimated attendance at “approximately 3,000 to 3,100.” He said he was glad to see that level of support. “It still is great with a lot of people showing up on time and we did it!” he said.
In past years, on Eid al-Fitr, thousands of Muslims could be seen from the offices of Norwood News congregating in the Oval. Kneeling on prayer rugs in the direction of the holy city of Mecca, birthplace of Muhammed, they would face, generally, towards the northeast goal post of the artificially turfed playing field, with a slight skew to the right, worshipping in unison. Like most other large gatherings, more recent, annual Eid celebrations were curtailed due to the pandemic, as reported.
This year, Norwood News witnessed an amazing job by volunteers seen organizing foot traffic outside the mosque, located at the corner of Rochambeau Avenue and East 206th Street in Norwood. As throngs of men in a multitude of colorful thawbs, the distinctive ankle-length robes worn by many Muslim men, exited the 8:15 a.m. prayer service, another large group lined the sidewalk of 206th Street, ready and waiting to attend the next and final morning prayer at 9:05 a.m.
Abdul Mazumder attended the 8:15 a.m. prayer service with his son, five-year-old son, Rafi Abdul. Mazumder is Bengali and has lived in Norwood for more than 10 years. He said he a has seen the Muslim population here grow and explained the importance of the mosque in creating a sense of community. “Our community is mosque-based,” Mazumder said. “If you see that [a mosque] in New York City, when you see that mosque over there [then] there’s a big Muslim community.” Referencing, specifically, the North Bronx Islamic Center, he added, “especially to our Bengali community.”
Norwood News previously reported on the work of LAAL, a female, empowerment group for Bengali women, based in Norwood and founded in 2019. The nonprofit has gone from strength to strength over the years, organizing various classes and community events, particularly those with health-related focus amid the pandemic. They have also co-hosted some previous candidate forums in the lead up to previous elections, in conjunction with Northwest Bronx Community & Clergy Coalition.
Next year, prayer services for Eid al-Fitr will be observed on Saturday, April 22. The North Bronx Islamic Center plans once again to meet in the Williamsbridge Oval for a singular service. If, however, Mother Nature does not provide dry weather conditions, once again, organizers said the members of the mosque they will be well prepared, as in 2022, with alternate plans.
Meanwhile, LAAL will be celebrating its annual summer Grishmo event on Thursday, June 9, 2022, at 6 p.m. at Andrew Freedman Home, located at 1125 Grand Concourse. To register, go to https://laalnyc.kindful.com/e/laalgrishmo2022.
*Síle Moloney contributed to this story.
Welcome to the Norwood News, a bi-weekly community newspaper that primarily serves the northwest Bronx communities of Norwood, Bedford Park, Fordham and University Heights. Through our Breaking Bronx blog, we focus on news and information for those neighborhoods, but aim to cover as much Bronx-related news as possible. Founded in 1988 by Mosholu Preservation Corporation, a not-for-profit affiliate of Montefiore Medical Center, the Norwood News began as a monthly and grew to a bi-weekly in 1994. In September 2003 the paper expanded to cover University Heights and now covers all the neighborhoods of Community District 7. The Norwood News exists to foster communication among citizens and organizations and to be a tool for neighborhood development efforts. The Norwood News runs the Bronx Youth Journalism Heard, a journalism training program for Bronx high school students. As you navigate this website, please let us know if you discover any glitches or if you have any suggestions. We’d love to hear from you. You can send e-mails to email@example.com or call us anytime (718) 324-4998.
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