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 family. Beginning my fast at sunrise, I especially remember the late-night runs to IHOP at two in the morning with my cousins then spending the whole day learning more about my Islamic faith.
The month of 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, abstain from pleasures, and pray to become closer to faith. But it also a time when families gather, celebrate, and unite under shared community. It is during this month, when Muslims volunteer most within their communities and give “Zakat”, Charity, to the less fortunate. For 24 year old activist Ameer Abdul, “From a spiritual sense, 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.”
There are over 4 million Muslims in the United States and almost two billion Muslims around the world, all of which will be affected this Ramadan due to the global Coronavirus pandemic. As a young Muslim American, celebrating Ramadan is one of the few reminders of my faith here in the US where Islamophobia continues to rise, but with threats of infecting our loved ones it seems that many of us will have to reevaluate how we practice our faith.
As Coronavirus ravages, we are encouraged to physically distance ourselves, especially from our elders and the immunocompromised members of our community. For Muslims, this will be hard during Ramadan as much of the month centers being surrounded by friends and family. 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 “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 becoming closer to religion, and 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.”
This is not specific to my Muslim community in the United States, my family in Palestine are also unable to leave their homes. It 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, is that we are ones to adapt.
Though I am not concerned for myself, I am concerned for the less fortunate members of the Muslim faith, unable to connect digitally with their loved ones, and unable to find food and shelter at the Mosques. Fatimata Cham, a Senegalese and Gambian American, her family is struggling to connect with their loved ones “Coronavirus will impact my family a lot. My Dad has found it difficult to send my grandmother money she needs for Ramadan because she lives in the village and the borders are closed in Senegal so we want someone to go pick up the money for her.” For them, this month will be especially hard as they fast all day with no reprieve after sunset. 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. The Muslim community in American simply want 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