Ramadan: What It Is and How Muslims Participate During Covid Lockdowns

Ramadan is a religious obligation observed by Muslims all over the globe. It’s a time of spiritual reflection and a way for Muslims to get closer to Islam and strengthen their deen (how they apply the principles of Islam in daily life) During Ramadan, Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. Fasting (Sawm) is one of the 5 Pillars of Islam. The other four being Shahada which is  declaring that there is only one God and Prophet Mohammad is his messenger, Salat which is prayer, Zakat which is giving charity and Hajj which is pilgrimage. 

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During Ramadan, you don’t only abstain from food but you also abstain from things that will tempt you to lose focus from your spirituality. Both Muslim men and women are encouraged to dress modestly during Ramadan. For women, that may mean covering your hair with a hijab (headscarf) and wearing loose-fitting clothing that covers your body. Men are encouraged to be covered up with loose clothes from neck to knee. Men are also recommended to lower their gaze around women who are not their wives or family. Along with attire, Muslims refrain from listening to music and observing media. Muslims are also not supposed to gossip or be critical of other people. Although these things are encouraged all year for Muslims, it’s important to not judge people who only ‘seem’ to be spiritual during Ramadan. Isla acknowledges that everyone has a different path, and it’s the effort that matters. These recommendations are in place in order to strengthen their spirituality since during Ramadan, Satan and evil are locked up so any action a Muslim makes during Ramadan is due to their own accord which makes their faith and prayers more powerful during this holy month. A lot of Muslims have found that Covid restrictions, despite having many negative aspects about it, makes this part of Ramadan easier since they have more time to reflect upon their spirituality and not fall into temptations. 

During Ramadan, you are to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. You are not allowed to take snack breaks or even drink water. If you happen to accidentally eat or drink, your fast will be broken for the day and you will have to make it up another day after Ramadan. You are permitted to eat between sunset and sunrise after doing your night and morning prayers. Muslims often break their fast after night prayer with a date and a cup of tea, then they get to eat whatever they want. Eating before sunrise is called Suhor and this is when you’d typically have a small meal to keep you energized for the rest of the day. Eating around sunset is called Iftar. This is when Muslims usually have a big feast because they are hungry and have not been able to eat all day. You are also encouraged to make Iftar dinner for disadvantaged or poor people and even for other Muslims in the community if you have the means to. Usually, the local Mosque gets Muslims of the community together every Friday of Ramadan to do special prayers together and to have Iftar together. Fridays are sacred days in Islam and you are spiritually rewarded for group prayer. Unfortunately, due to Covid, Muslims are restricted to having Iftar at home and unable to send food to other people. Despite this, Mosques still try to keep a sense of community by holding these Friday prayers over Zoom. 

Ramadan is usually observed for a month. Once it’s over, the Eid celebrations begin! The day after the last day of Ramadan, Muslims put on their best clothes and gather at the Mosque early in the morning to do morning prayer. Then the rest of the day is filled with feasting and spending time with loved ones and going house to house to deliver food. Children even get packets of money during Eid. This celebration lasts for about three days. Although Eid is a celebration for a month-long fast, not all Muslims who participate in Eid are required to fast. Muslims are not required to fast if they are elderly, have medical issues, are under the age of puberty or are menstruating. They can still participate in Ramadan despite this by praying, giving to charity, making food for others, and staying away from temptation.

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Covid-19 has put several roadblocks for many celebrations and religious practices all over the world. But it is still possible to participate in things like Ramadan and Eid while still having a sense of community thanks to Zoom and other online applications. Although this can be very isolating for Muslims, it’s important to remember that people have observed Ramadan and Eid during war and poverty. Although Covid-19 lockdowns are an inconvenience, they are in place for our own safety and we can find various ways to do what needs to be done without putting others at risk. Remember to check up on your Muslim friends at this time and to have a prosperous Ramadan if you’re partaking in it.