With many mosques still closed and gatherings and family meetings banned, this will be a holy month unlike all others. As Ramadan approaches, we look at some of the ways the Muslim community is preparing in these turbulent times…
There has perhaps never been a more meaningful interpretation of our journey through Ramadan than the one that has emerged during this lockdown. In a world that needed desperately to stop, to reflect, to be grateful, to turn inwards, the isolation created by coronavirus has done just that.
But now, Ramadan is shortly to begin, bringing with it a sense of purpose and deep exploration into ourselves. And it will be happening, for millions of Muslims, in the middle of this lockdown.
Perhaps, though, it is just exactly as it was meant to be that Ramadan has fallen in this time of global crisis, allowing Muslims to connect deeply with their faith and to be open in heart and mind to what a period of fasting and denial can truly show us.
Roman Basit, a student at Jamia Ahmadiyya in the United Kingdom, writing on alhakam.org says that spending Ramadan at home can actually allow us to understand it better. “Fasting is a practice that teaches us to give up even that which is permissible, i.e. food and drink. Why? To excel spiritually, develop self-control, relate with those less fortunate and, in turn, progress in gratitude.”
Interestingly, he continues, the coronavirus lockdown is teaching us the very same thing. “This really puts life into perspective and makes us realise just how lucky we usually are – to have the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want. See how a small shift in mindset can work wonders.”
Journalist Selina Bakkar has been using this time to perform little acts of ibadah at home, especially where food is concerned. “No doubt this pandemic has made us all realise the importance of every little thing,” she says in an article on amaliah.com. “Even my children have been finishing meals in an effort to make sure none of the barakah escapes.” More time in the home over the last few weeks has encouraged Bakker to try more ‘hacks’, which she shares in her brilliant article. “I hope that these tiny changes can encourage us all to be mindful of our consumption this Ramadan. May they be accepted as small moments of worship as well, Inshallah.” (www.amaliah.com)
Writer Taskeen Jamal explains about how she is using this time to learn more of the sacred concept of Taqwa. “Taqwa is an opportunity to turn things around. To become closer to Allah and to learn more about ourselves by learning more about Him,” she says in her feature about preparing for Ramadan. “It involves doing lots of good to please Allah. And to exit the month with more than we entered – physically, spiritually, emotionally and mentally.” An extraordinary parallel with many people’s experiences during the period of lockdown.
Jamal goes on to talk about her mental preparation, which involves using this extra time to really set her intentions and to read deeper into the time of Ramdan, as well as preparing to watch less television and to digitally detox too. “This mental focus is so important as it sets the tone for the last pillar. We cannot pray in the sincerest way we are meant to if our mind is still cluttered with other things.” (www.amaliah.com)
So, how can you use the circumstances of lockdown to enhance and deepen your month of Ramdan? “Spending time at home is allowing us to stay away from things we never thought we could live without, and is finally giving us the opportunity to do the things we never thought we actually could,” finishes Basrit.
Six Ways to Embrace a Lockdown Ramadan
A Deeper Reading
“Every year, we strive to complete a full reading of the Holy Quran during Ramadan, but with all this time, isn’t it a golden opportunity to take this connection with the Holy Book to a new level, where we know and understand what we read?” says Basrit. Now is the time to invest extra time into rereading the Holy Book, and to see lockdown as an opportunity for a deeper reading.
The Home as Heart
For Jamal, setting up the environment at home has become incredibly important, especially for her children, a way it never has before. “Putting up some exciting decorations, involving the kids in some crafts – all with the intention of creating a positive spirit and love for this beautiful month for the whole family,” she explains.
Tarawih prayers, a great socio-spiritual aspect of Ramadan, and an important part of the daily ritual will look very different this month. “We are all accustomed to making our way to the mosque every night, standing shoulder to shoulder, and listening to the Holy Quran being recited,” says Basrit. Because social distancing and lockdown means these prayers must happen at home, this is an opportunity offer Tarawih in congregation at home, and prepare by memorising a few verses to recite.
Charity of Many Kinds
Giving to charity doesn’t have to always be in the form of money, and now more than ever your donations can help struggling families. “Often when we think about ‘giving’ we focus of the financial aspect,” says Bakker. “But actually it may be sharing cans and packets of food you have in your cupboards and giving them to a local food bank or perhaps lending time to a friend remotely who needs help to improve their Arabic, even sending someone flowers.”
Focusing on your Intentions
The space to set an intention and to look forward with commitment is more available to us than ever before. Our busy lives have slowed down and you have time to now to focus your mind. “Repeating words and praises like ‘Alhamdulilah, Astaghfirullah and Subhan Allah’ with the right intention will get you in line to receive benefits, to revive your connection with the words,” says Bakker.
A True E‘tikaf
Ramdan ends with E’tikaf, the spiritual exercise of self-isolating from the world in a mosque. It is a challenge not everyone takes on. “I am sure all of us have wondered, ‘Would we really be able to do sit E‘tikaf for ten days? Would we really be able to stay away from technology, friends and work, all whilst being confined within four walls, all day and night?’,’ asks Basrit. And yet lockdown has shown us just how possible this can be.