House of Faith in Lakemba, in Sydney’s south-west, should be bustling with customers just days before Ramadan, but the salesman inside the shop that sells Islamic cultural wares stands alone. 

Asked how he thinks the marking of the holy month, which is due to begin on Thursday, will be, he is dejected. 

“No one knows. No one is going out. People are staying at home,” he tells SBS News.  

“Many people have lost their jobs. Everyone is holding on to the money they have. This is going to be a Ramadan like we have never seen before.”

Businesses which are usually busy ahead of Ramadan have been impacted by coronavirus.

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For families marking Ramadan in Australia, the social restrictions around COVID-19 will mean 30 days of fasting from before sunrise (Fajr) to after sunset (Maghreb) without the traditional large gatherings and festivities. 

Sydney family the Sultans normally gather with 100 members of their extended family at a community hall twice during Ramadan, but with restrictions still in place for at least another month, they’re having to adapt.  

“It’s massive … Other than siblings and my own mother and father, cousins come along. So we don’t know what to do, most likely we will do it alone with just my wife and children,” says Forad Sultan, a fund manager.  

“The family gatherings and the communal Iftars [breaking the fast together] are completely out of the question” his wife, Ramia, a lawyer, adds.  

“We are trying to come up with alternative ideas, maybe have a Zoom Iftar of some sort, maybe a Skype Iftar. We want to try to maintain an element of the communal energy even if that is virtually.”

The Sultans are considering hosting an online Iftar with their extended family.

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With all mosques closed, many Muslims will be turning to other sources for their daily Ramadan sermons. For those in Sydney, the Al Bayan Islamic radio station is hoping to fill that void. 

“We are supplementing some of the services that would normally be provided by the mosques such as live lessons, Q&A sessions and conferences,” Sheikh Jalal Chami, the station’s spokesperson, says. 

“There are services like the congregational Friday prayers, regular Friday prayers and Ramadan night prayers that will be missed, as well as the benefit of attending services physically to receive religious instruction. That is something many Muslims will be missing.”

Mosques across Australia remain closed.

Essam Al-Ghalib

Ramadan Nights, the month-long festivities held in Lakemba by the City of Canterbury Bankstown, is among the public events that have been cancelled across the country.  

City mayor Khal Asfour says: “Ramadan is a very important time of reflection for our Muslim community. It is about family and reaffirming one’s faith. Despite the challenging times we face, our Muslim community will continue to observe the holy month.” 

A sign on the door at Lakemba Mosque.

Essam Al-Ghalib

The Australian National Imams Council (ANIC) is advising the Muslim community to continue with social distancing during Ramadan.

“It is imperative that every Australian undertakes their part in safety measures to ultimately save lives and limit the spread of COVID-19,” a statement released on Monday reads. 

“ANIC encourages the Muslim community to conduct Taraweeh (nightly) prayers at home with their household members and to continue maintaining the spirit of Ramadan through the observation of spiritual practice at home and observation.”  

It is hoped that Eid, the Muslim equivalent of Christmas that comes immediately after Ramadan, will be a time of special celebration if COVID-19 restrictions have been relaxed by then. 

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others and gatherings are limited to two people unless you are with your family or household.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus



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