A different kind of Ramadan – By Zinah Nauthoa

Due to the Covid-19 global pandemic and the social distancing rules, approximately two billion Muslims around the world are forsaking their traditions during Ramadan for the safety of the community. On a superficial level, Ramadan during the pandemic can be disheartening. However, I believe it could not have come at a better time.

“What does Ramadan 2020 look like?”

It means no large ‘iftar’ gatherings with family and friends at sunset to break the day’s fast. Traditionally, Ramadan is a time to get together. Thankfully technology today allows us to virtually. I am grateful we live in a time where I can connect to my loved ones easily as I struggle to imagine what lockdown would be like without the help of Zoom or Whatsapp. Self-isolation also means no stress when it comes to hosting an iftar meal. Overeating and wasting food is highly discouraged yet there can be a tendency to do so due to the spread of food available at iftar parties. Without the self-induced obligation of hosting or attending iftars and more time on my hands, I can prepare wholesome meals.

It was during the month of Ramadan that the Qur’an was revealed and congregational night prayers, known as Tarawih, are held at the mosque, where the Imam recites the entire scripture over the course of the month. To prevent the spread of coronavirus, places of faith are closed. In consequence, we can carry out the private ritual from the comfort of our own home; choosing what we want to read, when and for how long. During the last 10 days of Ramadan, the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), would isolate to dedicate time for spiritual seclusion. Similarly, this Ramadan we will be renewing our relationship with God and the Qur’an on a deeply intimate level.

Since being furloughed, I have been given more time on my hands than I could ever dream of. Gone are the days of me saying “I don’t have time.” Fortunately, I am terribly good at keeping myself busy (without the help of Netflix!). As I am not overly tired mentally or physically, I go for a walk most days. I hope you all have some nature you can connect with as I find moving changes my state. The beauty of furlough is that I am the master of my day. However, there are days that bleed into the night and I feel low for not achieving anything. It is easy to beat myself up over it and I recognise it is not healthy to put pressure on myself in a time of uncertainty. Remember to be kind to yourself in this unprecedented time. Staying at home is the best course of action to save lives.

As someone who thrives on adventure, being confined to one space is an unusual place to find myself. So, I have taken the opportunity to embrace my curious spirit; using the time to explore within. I believe the authentic spirit of Ramadan is to introspect, reflect, exercise self-discipline and take accountability for our actions; connecting at a deeper, more authentic level to our sense of self and our creator. Meditating daily has helped me immensely and I highly recommend using this time to go inward.

Since lockdown, what I miss the most is human connection and I am sure I’m not alone on that front. It is my favourite part of being; laughing with others, hearing peoples’ stories, discussing interests. I love celebrating my friends’ and family’s happiness as well as being there for them when they are hurting. I invite you to remind yourself to be grateful each day. How privileged are many of us who can practice social distancing, have shelter, food, are still working or being educated? I think of my friends and family who are on the front line, of those serving our community, of the vulnerable, of the sick, of those who have lost loved ones or who are struggling. The corona-crisis has presented us with a challenging time where many are suffering. Acts of generosity are always important during the charitable month of Ramadan. Zakat, meaning ‘purification and growth’, is when we donate 2.5% of our excess wealth to the poor and needy. Worldwide, groups are setting up food stations and delivering meals to people who need them. Given my situation, I am volunteering in my local area to deliver food to the vulnerable.  

It is evident that we are in the midst of a transformation. In this surreal, isolating and confusing time, perspective is everything. Ramadan 2020 has the potential to be the best. It is all dependent on how you wish to embrace it. Don’t forget the power of togetherness and love for the divine. Wishing you all a Ramadan Kareem.

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