1.8 billion Muslims have geared up for a month of fasting in observance of Ramadan. However, with a global pandemic still looming, Muslims must celebrate in unorthodox ways.
As one of the five fundamental pillars of Islam, Muslims abstain from eating and drinking during this month to fully devote themselves to worship. In an effort to come closer to God, Ramadan is a time to spiritually feed your soul, with remembrance, repentance, compassion, charity and service to others. The integral principles that drive the Islamic faith. However with a global pandemic still looming, Muslims must celebrate in unorthodox ways.
Mosques that are usually over flowing with worshipers have shut their doors. Islam’s holiest cities in Saudia Arabia, Makkah and Medina, have thousands of confirmed cases and deem Ramadan congregation as too colossal of a public health threat. In trusting the experts, maintaining social distancing is the only way to successfully halt the spread Covid-19. Afraid that increased religious gatherings will contribute to higher infection rates, most Muslim communities have cancelled events. Gathering to break fasts together contributes to the the sense of community that Muslim families long for each year. Although virtual events provide limited interaction, the reality remains. Thousands will indeed be spending Ramadan alone because of the lack of social interaction.
To fast or not to fast
Studies regarding the health benefits of fasting during Ramadan are common knowledge at this point. A month long break in constant consumption of food allows the removal of toxins, cleanses internal organs, and in some cases can even contribute to reducing anxiety and depression. To the common uninformed oblivious neighbor, Ramadan is simply a time where Muslims ‘starve themselves for the sake of God’. However, by prioritizing a sense of accountability in the eyes of God, and temporarily putting (over) consumption on the back burner, our bodies naturally heal themselves.
Considering the generally fearful atmosphere, some Muslims are understandably concerned regarding any potential health risk associated with fasting amid Covid-19. Is a complete abstinence from food/water a health risk to an already at-risk immune system? What about those Muslims already at higher risk for Covid-19? Now, fasting by itself presents no threat of transmission of the virus whatsoever. However, for those individuals with already present chronic conditions, the fear remains. Regardless of Covid-19, Muslims that are ill, pregnant, elderly and traveling are excused from fasting during Ramadan. Answering the concern of whether or not fasting will be compulsory this Ramadan. Yes, bizarre circumstances, but discipline regarding fasting in Ramadan remains the same.
What does this Ramadan mean?
It is indeed a blessing to now take advantage of this holy month without the ‘noise’ of everyday life. With business, schools, and all non-essential places padlocked, Muslims are given the opportunity to worship on a silver platter. Merely fasting from food/water only scratches the surface of what Ramadan truly means to Muslims. We are reminded there is no greater power than that of our Creator. Similarly to the pandemic, it is up to us to accept some things will always be uncertain. It is our responsibility to use these unprecedented circumstances to humble ourselves and feel what it is like to not have.