Ramadan, an important Islamic holiday, is a month-long period of fasting from pleasures to mark when the prophet Muhammad first received the beginning chapters of the Quran. During Ramadan, Muslims participate in dietary fasting between dawn and sunset and moral fasting, allowing for the Muslim community to experience a strong sense of unity and an even closer relationship to God during this time.
This year, Ramadan extends from April 23 through May 23. Amidst the current COVID-19 pandemic, tradition has altered to safely continue through the holy month. In an interview with NPR, Imam Rizwan Ali of the Islamic Center of Naperville spoke to Michel Martin, the show’s host, regarding recent changes in prayer to an online format.
“So if you look at Ramadan, there’s the fasting aspect of it, and which we’re still able to do but not in a communal setting. There’s a prayer aspect, which we can’t do really in a communal setting, in a virtual setting.” Ali said. “But one other very important aspect of Ramadan is the community. So we’ve basically taken all of our programs and shifted them online… I think we’re probably more active this year than we would have been on site, which is really amazing for me to say.”
While this time does promote growth and learning for religion in an online format, unfortunately, the in-person charity and kindness from friends, family and the surrounding Muslim community must be postponed for the time being due to safety concerns amidst the current pandemic. According to USA Today, Sarah Sultan, a mother of two residing in Texas, has felt this lost aspect of community, specifically at mealtimes.
“There’s something special about people gathering around food, that’s across cultures and across religions,” Sultan told USA Today. “I think a lot of times people convey love through food. And so I think that’s a big part of why we’re going to be missing it so much.”
Even with many missed opportunities for spending close time with family and friends, this unusual period of self-isolation allows for a unique opportunity for the Muslim community to truly dive into their faith without interruptions. Often, when faced with a crisis such as the one we are facing now, priorities seem to rearrange, allowing for intense focus and whole-hearted commitment to the things held most important to us, such as faith.
According to The Baltimore Sun, Earl El-Amin, resident Imam of the Muslim Community Cultural Center of Baltimore finds that there is always a silver lining.
“Coronavirus has brought so many things to a standstill, but that gives us an opportunity to really come to grips with who we are as human beings,” El-Amin said. “I think we’ll all learn some humility. People are going to come out of this with a great spirit.”