• The sense of community is lost; the air is sombre and all is quiet by 7pm
It is evident that we are facing a time of firsts as we continue the global fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Up until 2019, most of us had lived blissful lives without wars, coups or dangerous outbreaks.
Since late last year, we can say that nothing has put us to the test more than the coronavirus. We have had to stay indoors for months on end, we have had to stay away from family and loved ones, and some have had to bear the worst burden of all, not being able to bury their loved ones.
For Muslims across the globe, the last weekend was the beginning of a first for everyone. The first Ramadhan during social distancing. This is the first Ramadhan in history that Muslims have been unable to assemble in mosques or gather as families during the fasting period.
In Kenya, the Chief Kadhi maintained that Muslims in the country will observe Ramadhan in accordance with the laws during the pandemic. That means mosques will remain closed to the public and no public gatherings will be allowed, even for special prayers. This unique Ramadhan is similarly being observed across the globe where most mosques remain closed.
Ramadhan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and is the one month of the year where every able-bodied Muslim is obligated to fast from dawn to dusk. It was during the holy month of Ramadhan that the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran, was revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
As such, Muslims aspire to read the entire Quran in the 30 days of Ramadhan. The sense of purity is heightened during this month as Muslims abstain from more than just food and water. Muslims are mandated to refrain from all evils during this month and focus only on devotion.
You see, Ramadhan is not just about being devout and increasing one’s good deeds; it’s about family and society. Muslims come together during this Holy month to pray in masses and share knowledge of the scripture through sermons. This is the main reason Ramadhan is predominantly a communal affair. People pray together and they break their fast together.
The month is special to Muslims around the world because there is a lot of emphasis on community. Everyone shares the little they have with their neighbours and loved ones. Mosques and organised institutions share food in their respective communities so no one goes hungry.
This is the time where people strengthen their communal bonds; united in devotion. The congregational aspect of Ramadhan also stems from a special prayer that is observed only during Ramadhan. This prayer, called Taraweh, is conducted after the last obligatory prayer of the day and can only be observed in a congregation. During these prayers, most Imams try to complete the Quran recitation.
The sense of community is the essence of Ramadhan. This year, the essence is lost, the air is sombre and all is quiet by 7pm. The adhan is ringing in empty mosques and the echoes reverberating in the quiet neighbourhoods. Behind the locked doors and drawn curtains, families gather to break their fast in an atypical manner.
No one is making the special feasts, as they can no longer have communal iftaar with friends and families. The special dishes that are only made during Ramadhan are missing in the day’s menu as people are consciously using food supplies. Most supply stores are closed and people cannot find those special ingredients as well.
It is a unique experience to be fasting during the coronavirus pandemic. However, at this rate, unique experiences and firsts are slowly becoming the norm. We understand the severity of the disease and we know that the only way to stop the spread of the coronavirus is to maintain social distance.
We miss praying Taraweh at the mosque and breaking fast in groups, but we understand the necessity of taking these drastic steps. The idea of Eid being a solitary affair is also heart-breaking to all Muslims. Nevertheless, we cannot let this holy month just pass us by in our sombre moods. It is important to take advantage of this divine time to pray for healing from the coronavirus.
Moreover, since most people won't be able to feed others during Ramadhan as they are accustomed to, it is essential that we look out for our communities by sending food to the less fortunate. We might be keeping social distance but the helping hand is without borders.