Ramadan this year just won’t be the same. No late nights at the mosque. No visiting family and friends. No hosting iftars (the time Muslims break their fast).
Well, what is Ramadan? Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar that begins with the sighting of the moon (like all months of the Islamic calendar), meaning that the date Ramadan begins varies from year to year. It’s a holy, spiritual time of forgiveness, when your good deeds are multiplied, and you begin fasting from sunrise to sunset (which is around 17 hours per day in the UK and between 29-30 days, depending on the length of the lunar month), prayer, reflection and charity.
this is a time of forgiveness and gratitude and so there is a true light this month
It is regarded as one of the five pillars of Islam, and as a time for spiritual cleansing. Another Islamic pillar which is observed in this month is known as ‘Zakat’, in which Muslims pay 2.5% of their wealth to the poor and needy. According to the UK National Zakat Foundation, approximately £262 million is collected in a year. In places like India, the money from the Zakat Foundation is used to run charitable hospitals, orphanages and provide an income to the widowed and poor.
This year our spiritual activities like fasting, praying and the paying of Zakat will continue but there will be no going to Hajj (another Islamic pillar), the holy pilgrimage in Mecca, Saudi Arabia which is seen as a pilgrimage of forgiveness and mercy. You can imagine that this is very disappointing and upsetting to many Muslims who intended to go this year. But, this pilgrimage is attended by millions from around the world and social distancing would be next to impossible. Many Muslims understand that restricting this pilgrimage is important in preventing a further spread of the virus and they pray that they can go in the following year.
some people have set up virtual iftars so that people living alone or away from family will still feel part of the community and less lonely
Ramadan is also a time that brings the Muslim community together when attending prayer, doing charitable activities and breaking fast together. Unfortunately this year there will be none of that, but in the digital world that we live in some people have set up virtual iftars so that people living alone or away from family will still feel part of the community and less lonely.
The Ramadan Trent project is holding virtual iftars and a live call to prayer. Charitable activities will also change as food shortages mean that many families will be affected. Many Muslims take up extra volunteering activities during this month, like making food for communities for iftar and packing up food bags for the less fortunate. Now any activities or fundraising is taking place online.
fasting in quarantine may be for some people more relaxing and allow them more time in spiritual fulfilment
With regards to changes in fasting, this year there may be more sick and vulnerable people who cannot fast. However, with schools, universities and many workplaces shutting down, some Muslims may find their time of fasting somewhat easier. Fasting whilst working and attending lectures can feel very tiring, but fasting in quarantine may be for some people more relaxing and allow them more time in spiritual fulfilment. This year many of us will thank God for staying in, giving us good health, and pray for the sick and vulnerable, reflect on the fortunes in our lives and set ourselves goals that allow us to become a better person and become closer to God.
Finally, there is a deep sense of sadness that sweeps over many of us, but at the same time this is a time of forgiveness and gratitude and so there is a true light this month. Even though the coronavirus has marched its way into our lives, and doesn’t seem in any hurry to perish, we are thankful to be in good health. We appreciate the simplicities in life and pray for all who have been affected by this virus.
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