Ramadan amid a pandemic is going to be a challenging time. Every year, no matter where I was in the world, I can remember hearing the calls to prayer after gouging on as much food as possible surrounded by food in my family. I recall breaking my fast at sunrise and then spending the entire day studying my Islamic beliefs with my relatives, who were also fasting.
Ramadan: The Sacred Month
Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year in Islamic culture, based on the lunar calendar. This year, Ramadan is set from April 23 to May 23, the middle of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Throughout the month, we fast from sunrise to sunset. And abstain thyself from pleasures, and pray to become closer to faith. But it is also a time when families gather, celebrate, and unite under a shared community. Muslims volunteer most and offer “Zakat” to the poor during this month. For 24 year old activist Ameer Abdul, “From a spiritual perspective, throughout the day the whole family each makes dedicated time to recite the Quran. We also each like to share our favorite verse of the day with one another.”
Impact of Coronavirus Pandemic
As a young Muslim American in a country where Islamophobia is rising, Ramadan is one of the few reminders of my faith. But with fears of infecting loved ones, many of us will have to reconsider how to celebrate this year’s Ramadan.
This is not specific to my Muslim community in the United States, my family in Palestine are also unable to leave their homes. It is sad to see this holiday, one meant for unity and happiness, to be shrouded by the fears we are all experiencing. However, if there is one thing I know about the Muslim faith and community, it is that we are ones to adapt.
As Coronavirus spreads, we should distance ourselves from our elders and immunocompromised neighbors. This will be challenging for Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan. Because Ramadan places a strong emphasis on spending time with loved ones. But as Mosques close everywhere, it seems we have no other choice.
However, Mosques around the country are starting to adapt. For Thandiwe Abdullah, she is looking forward to celebrating Ramadan in this new way . She says, “My mosque, The Islamic Center of Southern California, has been holding khutbahs (lecture) on zoom as well as Friday prayers. My youth group also holds talks on zoom every Sunday.” Thandiwe feels that “it will be a good way for us to get back to the roots of Ramadan. Ramadan is about simplicity and being closer to religion. Even though it’s not the best of situations I think the aspect of physical distancing will force a lot of us to get back to the basics.”
Though I am not afraid for myself, I am concerned for the less fortunate members of the Muslim faith. They cannot seek food or refuge at mosques or communicate with loved ones online. Fatimata Cham, a Senegalese and Gambian American, her family is struggling to connect with their loved ones. She says, “Coronavirus will impact my family a lot. My Dad can’t send my grandma money for Ramadan since she lives in the village and Senegal’s borders are blocked. So we need someone to deliver it to her.” For them, this month will be especially hard as they fast all day with no reprieve after sunset.
Supporting the Needy
In the spirit of Zakat, fortunate Muslims should spare whatever they can to send food and groceries to those in need. With growing services like UberEats and DoorDash, we will have to find new ways to be better neighbors. We may not be face to face but our community is still here, just different.
For decades the Muslim peoples have endured growing Islamophobia, war torn regions, and countries that continue to vilify them. But their hearts are unapologetically the same – resilient. This Ramadan amid a pandemic is not going to be any different. The Muslim community in America simply wants others to know what Ramadan is about.
Fatimata feels that “Ramadan is not just a holiday, it is a way for Muslims to learn Sabr. To learn to be patient in any struggle that may come their way. So that they may be better prepared for this world and the hereafter.” This resonates with Thandiwe as Ramadan is her “favorite time of the year.” And with Ameer who realizes that “Ramadan is a time that focuses on teaching empathy.”
Muslims will make it through this month of Ramadan because Coronavirus, and life, will not get easier or more forgiving; we get stronger, and more resilient.
UMR Monthly Contributor
Facebook: Ahmad Ibsais