Ramadan is a sacred month for Muslims where we seek to emotionally and spiritually connect while fasting. It is a month where gathering in a community is the norm and the city comes alive at night.
This year, however, after 7 pm, the streets are barren, restaurants and cafés are closed, and police patrol the streets ensuring everyone stays safely inside.
The typical rituals and routines are very different this Ramadan – one strange and foreign to us all.
Tarawih Prayers at the Mosque
Ramadan is the month of spiritual connection, chiefly by means of praying. Tarawih prayers are one of the fundamentals of Ramadan, a bonding experience with God. The prayers are performed at the mosque in community after the fifth prayer of the day.
Muslims were born to the tradition of performing them in mosques – but not this year. This year, the mosques are closed.
Unlike any other Ramadan, all Muslims are learning to pray Tarawih in their homes. This has become not only a bonding experience with God but one that is binding family members together.
During the day, most of the cafes and restaurants close throughout the whole fasting period in respect to Muslims. An hour or so before Iftar, the breaking of the fast, they open to welcome families and friends who prefer to break their fast outside of their home.
But not this year. This year the streets are bare, and cafes and restaurants remain closed, day and night.
All families are now breaking their fast indoors – this is specifically difficult for those who live alone. However, thanks to social media, people can share their meals on the same virtual table!
Going out at night is a tradition. People go out to watch post-Iftar-specific dance shows on the streets, have a cup of coffee together, take a stroll, go to the gym, or enjoy an evening in the various carnivals that only open during Ramadan.
So how are we coping having to celebrate Ramadan indoors?
This new situation is not hindering the joy the previous tradition brought. Facetiming or video chatting has become the new alternative. Video chatting has become vital for our communal culture.
Nowadays, women work throughout the whole day and so they don’t have time to do all the Ramadan preparations. For some people, baking is just not their forte, so they are accustomed to purchasing delicious goods from the bakery shops.
With the new situation, this once delightful experience has become a dangerous one, and shops are regretfully forced to close their doors in the face of their devoted clients.
Passing the time
Normally there are many ways that help make the day go faster. Even though fasting is not a walk in the park, especially during the summer, staying active and busy seals the deal.
Most people still work, although hours shrink during Ramadan. Others continue with school and studying. Some visit friends and family while others go out to buy groceries to prepare their favorite Iftar delight. People will spend time shopping for ‘Eid’s attires, and most people go for a long walk before Iftar time.
During the last hour of fasting, and after setting the table, you can see mothers and fathers out with their children, enjoying the nice cool air of the evening.
Due the new restrictions, going out has translated into staying home the whole day. Fasting at home has become a challenging norm. This is especially taxing since food is to most an amazing pastime.
Now, people are encouraged to sleep in the whole day, which renders a person’s fasting “weak” in Islam. Some people prefer to avoid the latter situation by praying, watching Ramadan TV shows, baking, drawing, etc.
The sounds of Ramadan
Another thing that makes Ramadan particularly special is the sounds of the Quran, Adhan (the timely call to the daily prayers), and Dua’ filling the air. Throughout the day, the muezzin calls Muslims to pray or to thank God for all His blessings or reads verses of the Holy Quran. This reminder that Ramadan is here makes living it even more special.
Now that mosques are closed, the muezzin’s call to pray is not different from that of regular days. There is no Dua to be heard on the streets or the echoes coming from all mosques of people praying together. The beautiful scene of all Muslims closing their shops or leaving their houses to go to the mosque to pray is no longer visible during these hard times.
None of us ever imagined that Ramadan would have a different flavor in 2020, but we are all positive that we can get through this, and most importantly, learn from it. Ramadan Kareem!