Starting from this evening, Muslims around the world will observe the holy month of Ramadan as they have not experienced before! Every year, besides fasting during the daylight hours, Muslims intensify several religious and social activities such as congregate for prayers and sharing meals as a community. Bazaars selling special types of food open in almost every Islamic country. This year, however, people will not be able to perform any of these activities due to the strict curfews and social distancing directives enforced to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease.
What is there to debate?
The past few weeks witnessed big discussions about what people should do during the month of Ramadan amid the coronavirus outbreak. Among the questions that have been deliberated: Should people still fast? Can they congregate for evening prayer, better known as Taraweeh? How can people leverage the spiritual benefits of the holy month while staying at home? Although the answers to these questions seem to be easy, people debated too much about them on social media platforms. But this is not new as such debates happen every Ramadan even though the topics debated may differ.
Muslim scholars agreed that every Muslim who is supposed to fast according to the criteria set by the Islamic teachings must fast. This clearly does not include COVID-19 patients and those who show symptoms. According to the Quran, sick people are exempt from fasting and can make up for the missed fast within a year after Ramadan. Taraweeh is classified as voluntarily prayer and therefore people would not be punished if they did not perform them with the congregation at the mosque. This is in line with the basic Islamic rule that preventing harm from affecting people’s lives is far more superior than bringing some benefits.
There have been a number of occasions in different countries where the spread COVID-19 surged following religious gatherings which were attended by infected people. In this regard, Muslim scholars encourage people to perform their prayers at home this Ramadan. The essence of fasting during Ramadan is an individual ritual and perhaps all the other cultural activities have not much to do with the reward people are going to get at the end of the month, except for doing good to one's kith & kin. But even in this latter case, avoiding physical contact can be the best thing to do especially with elderly relatives who are more vulnerable.
How to spend Ramadan this year?
With all the negative effects of COVID-19 on economic and social activities, analysts have been talking about possible environmental benefits. In the same sphere, individual Muslims—who often complain about not finding time to engage in spiritual growth activities during Ramadan due to work and other commitments—may find themselves more devoted during this Ramadan which would enhance their inner peace which helps to boosts their immune system and be reflected in their post-pandemic behaviour. Generally speaking, a rational Muslim would not let this blessed season pass without getting the best out of it.
Follow a routine: create a daily plan of the activities that you intend to implement and do not compromise on following the plan. For example, although you cannot go to the mosque, adhere to perform your prayers on time.
Don’t ignore your work tasks: as you may be working from home, you must fulfil all the tasks you are supposed to do for your job. Integrate them in your daily routine and for sure you will still have time for yourself.
Read Quran: Ramadan is the month of Quran, and reciting the holy book is one of the best things you can do whether during the day or at night. Try to complete reading one Juz’ each day, which usually takes about 30 minutes.
Connect with family: although you cannot meet your family physically, make sure you contact them regularly using one of the many available options to make video calls that include several participants at the same time.
Limit unnecessary activities: in order to feel the change, you need to stop any unproductive activities you have been used to before Ramadan such as being on social media or gaming for long hours. Focus on what matters.
Give charity: this is perhaps the best time to give donations that help the most affected people by the pandemic. Find a charitable organisation that you can trust and contact them to arrange your donations. You may start giving your close relatives who are in need first.