Thousands flocked to Downtown Jacksonville as an expression of faith on Friday morning when an Eid al-Fitr celebration was held inside the Jaguars’ Flex Field.
Muslims from across Northeast Florida celebrated the end of Ramadan with morning prayer service. Some wore sequined outfits, others wore veils, one young man walked in with a pair of blue Nike Air Max sneakers.
“We feel really special,” Abubakar Hasan says. “I don’t know how to say it, but we feel good. We feel together. We enjoy the day and the moment.”
Hasan says Eid al-Fitr is a communal and community celebration that is best done with the wider Muslim community.
An estimated 3,000 people positioned their prayer rugs toward the northeast corner of the facility, toward Mecca.
Bilal Malik, Imam of the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida, led the prayers. He says more than 20 different ethnic backgrounds were represented on the Flex Field.
“Regardless of our race, our color, our, even, gender; we are all together celebrating the 30 days of fasting,” Malik says. “Our Eid al-Fitr means breaking the fasting. So, this was like a discipline course. And, we need to apply it in the (other) 11 months.”
Malik says the region’s Muslim community has doctors, engineers and a large number of people with advanced degrees, so it’s easier to go deeper into the Quran here than in other areas he has served.
The biggest local misconception about Islam, Malik says, is how peaceful its followers are.
“The biggest thing is the inner peace we have,” Malik says. “What I believe Islam is coming from is peace. You have it inside, you give it out. If you don’t have it, you cannot spread.”
Ramadan, the month-long period of dawn-to-dusk fasting, intended to bring Muslims closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate, ended Thursday.