Ramadan is a time of year that I always look forward to. The fasting and the feasting with time to reflect, time for gratitude and time for togetherness. With Ramadan barely 10 days away, it’s already clear that this year will be very different.

Large parts of the world are in lockdown, the holiest mosques in Islam are closed with only a handful of worshippers at each prayer. Most Muslims are either bound to their homes, worried about health and finances, or doing jobs that put them at risk – whether they are doctors or supermarket cashiers. Some families are also separated, unable to visit elders or other vulnerable members for fear of putting them at risk. Connected by technology yet physically apart, with financial constraints and nowhere to go, this will be a very different Ramadan.

Streetside vendors with fried goodies are a Ramadan tradition – one that will probably not be possible this year

Muslims come together in Ramadan no matter what foreign part of the world we find ourselves in. Whether its hosting lavish iftars, going to Taraweeh, preparing iftar for the needy or just disparate people coming together to share variable culinary talents, we connect in Ramadan. This time Ramadan will present us with new challenges.

Praying together at the mosque won;t be possible this year

In its essence, Ramadan has always been about challenges and opportunities. The physical challenge of abstaining from food and water, the internal challenge of abstaining from frustration, annoyance, irritation and anger. The challenge of perseverance with humility and good humour. The opportunity to spend more time in search of spiritual happiness, more time in prayer and contemplation, more time reading the holy Quran. The opportunity to give more to the needy through Zakat and other charity. The opportunity to reconnect with your deen.

Big iftars for friends and family won’t be possible

Ramadan in the time of Corona will have its own challenges and opportunities. With no vaccine in sight for months, social distancing will be part and parcel of this Ramadan. And many many Muslims will be facing hardship due to job losses or lockdowns affecting their income. Some Muslims in isolation will face loneliness and deprivation while others will have to pass up beloved Ramadan traditions like Taraweeh at a particular mosque or family iftars. Whether our challenges are small or large, they are a test of our patience and generosity.

I’m sure that all of you will have much to add to this, but here’s my take on Ramadan in the time of Corona

Give Even More Generously

This Ramadan is the time to commit to helping those in need – whether its shopping for an elderly person, giving rations/groceries to those who can’t afford them or delivering iftar to someone who might not be able to cook for themselves. We, as an Ummah, do always give generously in Ramadan but this year its time for those who can to dig deeper. To forgo some of our little luxuries to make this time easier for someone else. Tighten your belt a little so that someone else has it easier.

Roadside Iftars would be irresponsible with CoronaVirus in the air – but many poorer people depend on them for Iftar – which is why its important to distribute rations

Be Thankful

It’s a time to focus on gratitude, to appreciate what we have no matter how little or how much. To appreciate that our Alhamdollillah is someone else’s InShaAllah. Be mindful in your gratitude – take the time to savour your blessings

Contemplate

Try to read the meaning of the Holy Quran as well as the Arabic. I like to use Quran.com because I like to listen to the Arabic which I read the English. You can choose the English Translation and the reciter – personally I read the Sahih International translation and listen to the recitation by Kuwaiti Mishary Al Falasy.

Time and again in the Holy Qur’an Allah tells us to use our Aql (intellect), he tells us to think and he tells us that he will send calamities that we have no control over. Each of us will find different aspects speak to us, but reading and contemplating are both calming and a wonderful way to come closer to Allah.

This is the sort of time that comes once in a generation and it is a test for us as individuals and a test for us as a community. Take the time to contemplate what this time has taught you about yourself, about your deen and about what is important to you.

Pray

Prayer has so many functions. It is our farz but it is also a solace and a guiding light. I don’t know about you, but the minute I start to pray, my mind starts to wander. Errands to run, ideas for work and more flit through my mind. In general I find it easier to focus when I’m fasting. This year there will be fewer distractions in terms of things that need doing but anxiety and general worry may make focusing on prayer harder. Mindfulness when we pray involves really concentrating on our Niyat or intention. It also helps to remember some of the many reasons for prayer, which include

  1. Giving thanks
  2. Praising & glorifying almighty Allah – a reminder of God’s glory and the wonder of creation
  3. Supplication or asking for blessings
  4. Asking forgiveness
  5. Seeking Spiritual upliftment
  6. Following Allah’s commandment/submission – which keeps us on the straight path
  7. Seeking solace – in times of trouble, prayer gives you hope, courage and patience
Giving up Taraweeh at the mosque will be a hardship but it’s important to think of the vulnerable in our community

For those who are used to praying in congregation, the loss of community will be especially difficult. If possible, pray together with your family members. Remember that this is a temporary state of affairs In Sha Allah and that when this is over, all our places of worship including the holy mosques in Mecca and Medina will be open again.

Celebrate

Our Rizq is a gift from almighty Allah. Enjoy it and celebrate together. Take the time to make special dishes for Sehri and Iftar, with everyone pitching in, not just the women (remember when everyone pitches in, women have more time for Ibadat). Take the time to make your home a serene and welcoming environment – pull out those scented candles or lay the table beautifully. We may not be able to go out but we can make our confinement as pleasurable as possible.

Enjoy the little pleasures of life

I hope that you are yours are all safe and healthy and that the holy month of Ramadan brings even more blessings to your home. Please do remember me and mine in your prayers.

Salima Feerasta
Author

Salima Feerasta is chief editor of Karachista.com and one of Pakistan's top fashion and lifestyle journalists.

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