Ramadan and the Coronavirus
An Email from a Friend
I reached out to a friend for a little help with this post. Here is what she wrote:
“Ramadan is the ninth month on the Islamic Lunar Calendar, which is ten days shorter than the Gregorian calendar [Me – I’d forgotten our calendar has a name] so each year Ramadan is about ten days earlier that the last. [Next year – around April 14th]
The months of the lunar calendar are 29 or 30 days.
“Oh, you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was presccribed for those before you, that you may develop God-consciousness.” (Quran 2:183)
“In Ramadan Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. It is not just a month to turn away from food and drink but to turn towards our Creator and serve His Creation.
During this month, Muslims pray and reflect during the day and in the evening they will break their day long fast with a meal called iftaar. This time calls on Muslims to honor the values at the very heart of Islam – compassion, peace, and service to others. This year, we will be doing this in lockdown and while practicing social distancing. This is just a pivot in the way most of us are used to engaging in Ramada, but God willing, we will find enrichment in this as well.
Wishing everyone a very blessed Ramadan – especially healthcare workers and all essential workers in the front lines – a very safe, healthy and blessed Ramadan!”
Many thanks to my friend for explaining Ramadan to me, and to you.
This year Ramadan started after sundown on April 24th, and it will end at sundown on May 23rd, but it will be different. I wanted to understand how. I found a source that looked at Prayer, Fasting, Charity, and Pilgrimage.
2. Prayer – Salat is the Muslim word for prayer. Believers pray 5 times a day, every day, facing Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Tarawih prayers are done each night during Ramadan. Tarawih and Friday prayers are usually said at the mosque in the evening. But not this year. Some mosques are using Zoom, Skype, or webcasts to bring their congregations together.
Some worry that people will miss the call to prayer this year. In Muslim countries it probably isn’t a problem. They broadcast their call with an outside speaker, but in the US the call comes from inside the mosque. I hope they’ll find a way to reach out to each member of the congregation.
2. Fasting – Sawm is part of worship during Ramadan. That’s the month that Muslims don’t eat or drink from dawn to dusk each day. As they turn away from food, they turn towards God and acts of charity.
The Quran tells people who are traveling, sick, elderly, or pregnant that they shouldn’t fast. This year people are worried that fasting will weaken their immune systems, and they’ll get the coronavirus.
But my source said there’s ‘leeway. You don’t have to do something that will hurt your health.’ I didn’t find a specific rule, but my guess is that if you have something like heart disease or diabetes, you will skip fasting and do works of charity instead.
Muslim families break their fasts at Suhoor and at Iftar. Suhoor is the pre-dawn meal before morning prayers. Iftar is the post-sunset meal.
This congregation, men only, is seated together without any social distancing. This year, 2020, Suhoor and Iftar are being done at home with social media connecting you and your mosque.
Here are 2 sources for Ramadan foods.
The pictures below are Ramadan foods I found on Pixabay.
Suhoor is the smaller sunrise meal. Health24.com said fasting required complex carbohydrates and high fiber foods. Complex carbs include whole wheats, oats, beans and rice. High fiber foods are raw fruits and vegetables. Ktchn.com went with a simpler meal – just a date and a glass of water, milk or juice. Then it’s time for morning prayer.
Iftar is the bigger meal after sunset. Health24 suggested dates and water, but advised against lots of sugars and fats. Ktchn.com went with dates and water before the evening prayer. After prayer there’d be dinner with a main dish, sides, salads, and desserts followed by the Tarawih prayers.
3. Charity – Zakat is another pillar of Islam. Donating money, food, and other resources to those in need is part of being Muslim.
Many mosques run their own food pantries year round. Members of the congregation volunteer at church and at non-profit groups. It is part of Islam ‘to care for those who are less fortunate.’ It’s especially true during Ramadan.
Many mosques provide iftar meals to their church families, but not this year – coronavirus. They’ll still pass out meals, but curb side pick up is one of the ways to use social distancing.
4. Pilgrimage – Hajj to Mecca is done during December, but there’s a shorter one during Ramadan, called Umrah.
The goal of pilgrimage is to worship at the holy Kaaba, in the center of the Great Mosque of Mecca, but that won’t happen this year either. Saudi Arabia has banned all religious gatherings, including community prayer because of the coronavirus.
There are so many things lost because of this virus, but there are gains too. You can meditate, pray, and study the Quran from home. You can donate money from a cancelled pilgrimage to charity. But best of all you have more time with family, and more time to draw closer to God.
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When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!