Ramadan at a time of crisis
The importance of the month of Ramadan is hard to underestimate. It changes people. It is an exercise for the soul to become nearer to God. Even those with little regard for such practices as their daily namaz become steadfast in their fasting and praying during these holy days. From dawn till sunset, unbeknownst to one, the soul is at work, taming its fetid desires to earn grace in the eyes of God.
The beginning of Ramadan is not far away and we thus need to be prepared for the circumstances under which the feast will be celebrated this year. Coronavirus has become a challenge to test our integrity in faith. But it is not for a Muslim to despair. Allah will accept the offerings of a pure heart no matter how unconventionally these offerings are made. The restrictions placed on our daily routines will affect the crucial issues of our faith, however, all Muslim authorities have confirmed the absolute necessity of these measures at a time when hundreds of thousands of human lives are at stake.
With lockdown and self-isolation now imposed, most rites having to do with public gatherings will have to be re-invented. Prayers at mosques, iftars with family and friends, zakat fundraising for the needy will have to be performed online. This must not be taken with affront, especially in the coming month of repentance and submission. Rather, this needs to be viewed as another of God’s graces helping us to tame our passions. Praised be Allah’s wisdom that we have been given the technical means to confront the adversity in a way that makes the restrictions’ impact on a Muslim’s normal world fall with him as gently as possible.
Mosques around the world are imposing lockdown. In the UK 375 mosques and prayer centres have suspended congregational prayers indefinitely including some of the biggest ones such as East London Mosque which can hold up to 7,000 worshippers. Similarly, the Masjid An Nabawi in Saudi Arabia has closed its doors to stem the spreading of the virus. However the prayers shall continue. All the daily and festive prayers shall be diligently broadcast online so that none of the acts of worship shall be missed. Neither shall the power of communal prayer be weakened for all the faithful shall be united in it by the invisible bonds of their praying hearts. You may be sure that Allah knows your plight and understands.
Now what will become of Eid? The next full moon will inevitably signal its coming and with it will come the three days of massive merry-making, with all of the faithful flocking to mosques in numbers greater than those during Ramadan, with merry companies going out to eat together, delighted at being able to do this during the daytime, with friends and families paying constant visits to each other, going to town with children, having social event for adults. All this will have to be confined to one’s home. But will the joy of the Holy Festival diminish? Will the jubilation of the heart pale? Will the grace of Allah be revised for lack of outer manifestation of man’s love for his Maker? Indeed few will think that way.
The month of Ramadan is coming. The fasting, the prayer, the communal praise of God and the charitable giving will continue. Different in form but unaltered in essence.