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“The Fast of Ramadan, Covid-19 pandemic: A Reflection

By Khaled Noor:

 

 

The fast of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam. Fasting during Ramadan is obligatory for every Muslim of full age who is mentally and physically fit. There are some exceptions, such as those who are travelling. The month of Ramadan has special significant in the Islamic calendar, as it is the month during which the Qur’an was revealed by God to the final prophetMuhammad (pbuh), through the angel Jibril (Gabriel).
Fasting is prescribed for Muslims – as it was prescribed for people before them, which is mentioned in Qur’an (02:183). Fasting during Ramadan, for a Muslim, means abstaining from food, drink, intimate relations (intercourse) and smoking from dawn to dusk – and one must make the explicit intention of doing so.

The fasting during month of Ramadan is especially important for Muslims because the purpose of the fast is to gain consciousness of God: no one knows if you are keeping to the fast except God. Fasting develops self-control and it helps you to achieve piety and overcome selfishness, greed, and laziness. Fast makes you experience hunger and thirst – this helps us to have empathy and realise how poor and hungry people around the world are feeling. Also, Ramadan is the month of forgiveness and compassion. During this month, Muslims devote more time to prayers, especially during the nights; share food with neighbours and relatives; and give sums of money to charitable causes, in accordance with their means.
Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic Hijri calendar. This is a lunar calendar consisting of twelve lunar months in a year of 354 or 355 days – so Ramadan starts on a different date in the Gregorian calendar (used in the UK) ever year. It also moves through the seasons, so the length of the fasting period varies. The sighting of the rising moon marks the beginning of Ramadan.

During Ramadan, day and night are reversed. Muslims have our main mean during Iftar (“breaking the fast”) at sunset and then go to evening prayers. They will then sleep before waking to have another meal, which is usually eaten before the fast begins at dawn and saying morning prayers. There may be time for a shot sleep before going to work or school. Muslims are often tired during the day, but they do so with the explicit intention of earning forgiveness and salvation from hellfire in the hereafter.

This year I am fasting in a much happier mood compared with last year, when anti-Covid-19 restrictions closed many Mosques and Islamic centres. As restrictions have eased, with infection rates falling and vaccination rates rising, facilities communal prayers have resumed, albeit with social distancing. This year, I am pleased to be able to pray at my local Mosque and have that strong spiritual connection with fellow Muslims once more. As Ramadan is a time of giving to those less fortunate, I have delivered food parcels to Redbridge Food Bank every Saturday – funded by donations I received during my year of weekly charity runs.

Iftar is a great moment of joy and celebration after a long day of fasting and sharing Iftar meals with others is highly rewarded. In previous years I would break my fast while sharing food at a Mosque or at gatherings of friends and family. Like other Muslims, I am missing this part of the celebrations. However, I am pleased that lockdown restrictions are easing and happy to enjoy the essence of Ramadan by pray in Mosques once more and meeting friends and family – albeit only in outdoor settings.

Last year Ramadan was the most difficult, unusual and unprecedented one in living memory. Under full lockdown, Mosques and Islamic centres were closed and we all had to stay at home. There were long queues outside shopping centres and the news of people being infected by or dying from Covid -19 created an atmosphere of fear and isolation. This Ramadan is much better – you try to grab as much joy and happiness as you can, despite the restrictions still in place.

Last year I celebrated Eid at home with my wife and children. Echoing ‘Eid in the Park’, we held an ‘Eid in the Garden’ – with whimsical decorations to make the celebrations enjoyable for my young son and daughter, who have missed out on so much during the pandemic, and fun and games, and a picnic. This year I am looking forward to communal prayers at my local Mosque – and looking forward to ‘Eid in the Park’ returning in 2022.

As per Coronavirus while it does not discriminate over whom it infects, here in the UK it is evident that COVID-19 has disproportionately affected Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities, including NHS employees, health, and care staff. It is reported that 63% of the first 106 health and social care staff known to have died from the virus were Black or Asian. The death rate among British Black Africans and British Pakistanis from Coronavirus in hospitals in England is more than 2.5 times that of the white population; and older Bangladeshis appear vulnerable due to underlying health conditions.

I experienced Covid symptoms during March/April last year: however, I am lucky to be alive and healthy now. Fortunately, I have not lost any of my close family members – though many have been infected with the virus.   Some friends and members of my community, as well as some professional colleagues, did succumb to the illness. Sadly, they are no longer with us, and I have been greatly affected by these losses during through this Ramadan. However, the vaccine gives us hope, and I look forward to a better post-Covid future.

Khaled Noor is a Barrister (N/P) and Solicitor. He is also the Chairperson of the Muslim Professionals Forum and a Councillor at London Borough of Redbridge.  info@muslimprofessionalsforum.org

April 22, 2021