What will Ramadan under lockdown look like?
Muslims refer to themselves as one ummah – a community – and Ramadan is usually the ultimate communal fest. We break fast together, pray together, empathise with one another about our hunger pangs, and then feel guilty about complaining about the lack of food.
We do it all, side by side. But the global coronavirus pandemic means many traditions will be done differently. Worship will become a private affair, without the large congregations we’re used to.
The Taraweeh prayers and iftars (breaking the fast), which were once enjoyed with all our loved ones, will now take place with only the people we’re in isolation with.
That means families and friends will be separated in a month that is usually made easier with companionship. But it’s a small sacrifice to make to prevent the spread of the virus and ensure everyone is safe and healthy.
Recently there have been some reports claiming Ramadan could cause a spike in coronavirus due to the communal spirit of the holy month.
Muslims, however, dispute it and have argued that Ramadan makes it uniquely easy to socially distance from one another: fasting through the day means having hardly any energy to socialise. Meanwhile, nights are used to eat and worship.
All places of worship are also closed as per government guidelines. Muslims will be practicing remotely and privately during Ramadan as we have done during Friday Jummah (congregational) prayers which have been followed at home via online sermons.
Harun Khan, Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain tells us that Muslims won’t pose a threat to the pandemic any more than any other group.
He says: ‘Ramadan for British Muslims will look markedly different this year with the current social distancing measures in place, but mosques and Muslim organisations across the UK are working to ensure a remote Ramadan can still be spiritually uplifting.
‘Many mosques and scholars are already doing daily livestreams of prayers and sermons, with many more looking set to follow during Ramadan.
Ramadan in mourning It’s no secret that the coronavirus has disproportionately affected BAME communities, including many Muslims.
The first four NHS doctors to die of the virus were Muslims and many of the thousands of British nationals who have died are also of the Islamic faith.
That means for the rest of their family, this will be their first Ramadan without those loved ones. Even for those who haven’t personally lost someone may still be mourning for the lost members of the ummah.
But this Ramadan will be provide extra time to pray for the dead and take worship to a higher level.
Harun adds: ‘Whilst Ramadan is usually spent with friends, families and communities, Muslims this year will be looking at how to make the most of the holy month in their homes.’
Ramadan in isolation While many Muslims live with family, there are those who are living alone or in a flatshare with non-Muslims.
This Ramadan may be particularly lonesome for them as they can’t break fast with their loved ones. But, imam Noor Hadi from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association says mosques and Islamic leaders are trying their best to alleviate loneliness among their Muslim networks.
He tells us: ‘This year as our mosques will be sadly closed, this means our Imams will take their classes online and will be teaching Muslims of all ages how to pray, read the Holy Quran and also deliver enlightening lectures on a range of topics regularly.