The Islamic month of Ramadan is only a few days away and Muslims across the world are preparing to make inevitable changes to traditional practices due to social distancing and lockdowns. Ramadan is expected to start on 23rd or 24th of April (depending on moon sightings) and is expected to finish on the 24th or 25th of May on Eid-ul-Fitr. Due to Covid-19, many practices have changed already. Most countries have banned gatherings of large groups and closed down mosques, which means that there are no congregational prayers and services.
Ramadan is often seen as a time that brings families closer together because of the daily evening meal to break the fast (called iftar) and the morning meal before the fast begins (known as suhoor). I personally was looking forward to Ramadan this year in particular because I was going to be back home after a year. However, this year Ramadan comes during unusual circumstances, which means we will need to put a temporary halt to the traditional practices and make some adjustments.
The principal act of the month is fasting and there should be no changes to that particular tradition. Perhaps, it might even be easier for some people to fast if they are staying at home and not performing any physically taxing tasks. Islamic injunctions about fasting are more significant during a global pandemic. Although, fasting is obligatory during the month exceptions are made for children, pregnant women, the elderly, and those that are suffering illnesses. Naturally, this also extends to those who are suffering from coronavirus.
While fasting will carry on as normal, there is one tradition that will inevitably be impacted and that is the nightly Tarawih prayer. This is an additional prayer that takes place during Ramadan and most people look forward to attending it. However, with all congregational prayers and services like the Friday prayer suspended – the commencement of Taraweeh seems unlikely.
Needless to say, I feel extremely fortunate to be isolating with my family as it would feel quite normal. However, one of my favourite traditions of Ramadan is to invite friends and relatives over to break the fast together or go out to a restaurant. With lockdowns and social distancing in place, this will not be possible this year.
For those isolating at university or away from family and friends can compensate for the lack of social interaction by arranging communal iftars via skype or zoom. Charitable events and donations are conducted throughout the year, however, during Ramadan, these practices are exalted in the Muslim community. The less fortunate would bear the brunt of the pandemic as they are reliant on communal iftars by the wealthier members of the community. Volunteers, also, pack meals for the less fortunate, but due to food shortages across the world – this will be difficult to carry out. According to the Muslim Charity Foundation, in the UK alone, Muslims tend to donate £130m to charitable causes during the month. This year any fundraising may have to be carried out through online donation websites.
As I mentioned earlier, the end of Ramadan is marked by Eid-ul-Fitr, which is celebrated during the first three days of the month of Shawwal. It is one of the biggest festivals and highly anticipated. It will be largely affected, perhaps, more than Ramadan. Traditional Eid celebrations involve big gatherings and parties. However, it seems unlikely that the pandemic will die down by Eid. Although alternatives for the Eid prayer have been planned, Eid usually involves people gathering in large groups to celebrate.
It goes without saying that the current circumstances has us all feeling at an all time low. Staying at home is becoming unbearable and everything seems pointless because there is so much uncertainty about everything. However, it is imperative that we stay positive and see the glass as half full rather than empty.
Spending Ramadan at home could be a blessing in disguise as it will not only be easier to get through the fast but with more time on our hands, we could perhaps set worship goals for ourselves such as recitation of the Holy Quran and praying.