Lessons Learned From Celebrating Ramadan During a Pandemic

by Amina Ibrahim

What was once a month filled with community gathering, food and nightly congregational prayers now has an eerie sense of loneliness that has Muslims around the world mourning the loss of traditions held dear during the holy month of Ramadan. 

On a usual Ramadan night you can hear the sounds of clinking glasses, sambus crunching, and laughter and conversation in our home. Extended family and friends would gather around our living room floor waiting to break our fast together. Our home has an open door policy: anyone who is in need of a place to break fast, or friends interested in learning about Ramadan, are welcome any night. The mood is vibrant and carefree. Iftars last often into late nights or early mornings depending on what time our fast is broken. This year, we break our fast around 8:30 p.m., stretching a few more minutes past that time as the month progresses. 

This year, our iftars are intimate and small, breaking bread with only my immediate family. The simultaneous conversations that may sound chaotic to some are dearly missed. Nightly congregational prayer has been replaced with at-home Islamic trivia and card games to help pass the time. Our open door policy is now closed. 

Throughout all of this though, I have found ways to remain connected and reflect on what is most important during this holy month. For myself and many others, Ramadan is about finding peace within oneself. Sacrifice, patience, and empathy are integral in this holy month. These are also the very things that help me cope during these unusual times during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Sacrifice is something we often reflect on during this month. Typically, our entire eating and sleep schedules are completely changed — however our jobs, schools and commitments stay the same. Many people stay up late into the night praying, or wake up early to have a meal before the sun rises. We change our routine to spend more time reading the Quran or being in service to others.

Similarly during this pandemic, our whole lives have changed, and our own new normal is filled with sacrifices. But in both instances we are doing this for the greater good. When we stay at home, or wear masks in public, we are doing so not only for our own protection, but to protect others. 

Ramadan has also taught me patience. Fasting for 16 hours a day while working and continuing your normal life is not an easy task. We must be patient with ourselves, co-workers and loved ones. Patience is something that I have often reminded both myself and loved ones of during this pandemic. As we deal with the uncertainties of this time, we must learn to have patience and assume positive intent in each other and our local leaders.

Compassion. This is something we are taught and reminded of in many ways throughout our lives. It is something that is emphasized in Islam and amplified during Ramandan. Spending the month in self-reflection and service encourages us to see life beyond ourselves. It pushes us to think of others often and deeply, wishing for them the same blessings we wish for ourselves. During a typical Ramadan, I would spend afternoons in service of others. Be it in a food bank or hosting a community iftar, I would be putting myself in the shoes of others from all walks of life. This pandemic has affected every aspect of our lives. While some are mourning the illness and deaths of loved ones, others are upset at the stay at home orders because they have not been personally challenged by this virus. Compassion for others and their circumstances serve us all well. 

Ramadan in the era of coronavirus, however challenging and isolating it has been, will make future Ramadans more meaningful. As we look forward to a time where we can once again congregate, share meals and freely spend time with others, Ramadan 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic have been about patience, sacrifice and compassion towards others and ourselves.

“Verily indeed with every hardship comes ease.” —Quran 94:6 

Amina Ibrahim is a journalist and activist with a passion for reporting about underrepresented communities and her South Seattle neighborhood. She has previously done audio work that has aired on KUOW.

Featured image: sourced from Wikimedia Commons.