The Muslim community in New Zealand celebrated its biggest religious festival Eid-ul-Fitr on Sunday, May 24 after the FIANZ Hilal Committee confirmed the moon sighting the preceding evening. 

The Muslim community rejoiced with the announcement of the Eid that came a day earlier than most countries around the world who completed full 30 days of Ramadan unlike New Zealand, where only 29 days of Ramadan was observed. 

Worshippers inside Jamia Masjid Al Mustafa in Otahuhu, Auckland, for Eid prayer on Sunday, May 24

As Eid day was announced, the biggest challenge for the community was to make the congregational Eid prayers in mosques and community centres which was restricted this year to a maximum of 10 people gathering at a place during the Alert Level 2. 

Islamic organisations and mosques had the liberty to host congregational prayers but by maintaining a strict social distance of at least 2-metre apart between the groups of 10, and 1m within the group.

Almost all mosques around the country hosted congregational Eid prayer sessions in batches of 50 to 60 and scheduling at different intervals of the morning. Some of the mosques were also assisted by New Zealand Police officers to monitor and help conduct the prayers and manage the waiting crowd. 

Worshippers queued outside Avondale mosque, Auckland, for Eid prayer on Sunday, May 24

There were also some Islamic Centres in the country who chose not to conduct Eid prayers at the mosques due to limited resources to manage manpower, but encouraged the community to make their Eid prayer with the friends and family at home keeping the limit to 10.

A release from New Zealand Police last week said it was allowed to have multiple groups of 10 present at a service provided each group was 2m apart from each other and complied with any record-keeping requirements (depending on whether they were a lower risk gathering or a gathering of friends and whanau). 

Worshippers queued at Masjid-e-Umar in Mt Roskill, Auckland, for Eid prayer on Sunday, May 24

"We hosted five batches of Eid prayers from our Masjid Ayesha in Manurewa with each batch consisting of 50 people registered with us for the special prayer arrangement," Abdul Qayyum from Masjid Ayesha in Manurewa told The Indian Weekender. 

"We had our first Eid prayer at 7:40 a.m. and the last session at 10 a.m. All our registered community members performing Eid prayer maintained social distance as stipulated by the government and worshippers left the premises as soon as the prayer was over," Mr Qayyum added. 

Masjid Ayesha in Manurewa on Eid 2020 

Masjid Umar hosted two sessions, one at 8 a.m. with 400 and second at 8:35 with 340 people at the mosque premises (ground and first floor), and front and rear parking spaces. 

"We had 20 volunteers who took the details of each group of 10, ushered them to the mosque premises to pray, and each group was separated by 2m distance, and distance within groups 1m. 

Worshippers outside Avondale mosque, Auckland, for Eid prayer on Sunday, May 24

"Since our mosque spreads over a huge space, and with the adjoining parking space in the front, and rear, we could afford to host such massive groups for the prayer on Eid while maintaining the social distance. We had police presence too at the mosque who were there to overlook the activities, and we plan to host our Friday congregational prayers similarly until we are out of Alert Level 2," Ahmed Bhamji from Masjid-e-Umar told The Indian Weekender.

New Zealand Muslim Association having five Islamic Centres and mosques under its umbrella too hosted multiple sessions of prayers at all its mosques while complying with the social distancing rules during Alert Level 2. 

"We had people registered for the Eid prayer, and everyone came to the mosque in their best dress while maintaining proper distancing both inside and out the mosque while in the queue for the prayer sessions," a spokesperson from NZMA told The Indian Weekender. 

Avondale Islamic Centre hosted two sessions (8 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.), two at Birkenhead Islamic Centre, three sessions at Kelston Islamic Centre, one at Ponsonby Masjid and three at West Auckland Mosque in Ranui. 

South Auckland Muslim Association (SAMA) hosted six sessions of Eid prayers with 120 worshippers in each batch.

Worshippers inside Jamia Masjid Al Mustafa in Otahuhu, Auckland, for Eid prayer on Sunday, May 24

Given the Muslim population in the country, the number of mosques with limitations in capacity, sessions and gatherings, most of the families took upon the option of making their Eid prayer at home with family and friends keeping the number to 10. 

"We are four Muslim friends from different parts of India living together; we had some friends from overseas who joined us at our Eid prayer conducted by one of us at our home. 

Eden Park lit in green and white on Sunday and Monday, May 24 and 25 on the occasion of Muslim festival Eid-ul-Fitr

"It was a beautiful feeling, one of friends' wife joined the prayer too for Eid prayer as praying at home was permissible, encouraged, especially for women, children and elderly in New Zealand," Hayat Kabir, a community member told The Indian Weekender. 

Sky Tower and Eden Park lit in green and white for Eid.

SkyCity last Thursday announced that it would light its Sky Tower in green and white colour for two days on Eid as a gesture of goodwill towards the Muslim community. Joining the bandwagon, Eden Park too came forward and announced lighting up its stadium in similar colours for the Muslim community celebrating Eid-ul-Fitr. 

Sky Tower in Auckland lit in green and white on Sunday and Monday, May 24 and 25 on the occasion of Muslim festival Eid-ul-Fitr

"We are truly appreciative of Eden Park and SkyCity collectively helping us celebrate Eid together as one community - one family; not just Muslim, but all New Zealanders", New Zealand Eid Day, a community organisation hosting Eid events wrote on its Facebook page.