Ramadan and Social Responsibility During Coronavirus

Muslims have just celebrated Eid al-Fitr, the festival that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. The month of fasting, which is demanding in itself, has been even harder this year with the current social distancing requirements. Usually the high point of each day would be gathering with family and friends to break the fast with the evening meal, known as iftar. This year these customary gatherings have not been possible in the same way as in other years, for Muslims across the world.

Religion and risk of infection

Places of worship, like other spaces where large numbers of people gather, were affected early on by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in some cases were early hotspots for spreading infection. A synagogue in New York, a church in the Philippines, and a mass religious gathering in Pakistan were all hotspots for spreading Covid-19 infection in early 2020.

In Norway, mosques were quick to shut their doors and take on an important role in efforts to stop the spread of infection by providing information and advice. Through their networks, mosques have reached out to people who were not easily reachable through the authorities’ established channels. Like for other religious leaders, the decision to ask the faithful to stay at home, away from mosques, has been difficult. In times of crisis, religious beliefs and rituals are important to many people. But the situation has demanded the opposite; not to gather, not to stand close together.

FULL ARTICLE FROM PRIO BLOGS

‘We are all the same’: West Springfield Mosque provides hundreds of meals to the community during coronavirus pandemic

The vibrant collection of people celebrating the day after Eid al-Fitr at the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts had to change because of the coronavirus.

This year, the mosque decided to provide food to hundreds of community members in need as the country remains in the midst of the unprecedented pandemic.

Eid al-Fitr begins on the evening of Saturday May 23 is an Islamic holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, a month-long period of fasting and deep reflection. Translated from Arabic as “the feast of the breaking of the fast”, Muslims observe the religious holiday by taking part in traditions such as holding prayer services and donating money to charity.

“We would have had a large congregational prayer at a park with probably two to three thousand people,” said Mohammed Dastigir, president of the Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts.

Dastigir told MassLive that usually the mosque would rent space in Stanley Park in Westfield or use one of the football fields at the high school.

“We usually work with the mayor (West Springfield Mayor William Reichelt) and we rent out the high school, which we obviously couldn’t do that this year. In our parking lot there’s tents and a bunch of food, like a buffet,” Dastigir said.


FULL ARTICLE FROM MASSLIVE.COM

Coronavirus has transformed how Muslims mark Ramadan: ‘A complete reevaluation’

042818_RamadanApp_03Faith communities around the world are leveraging tools like Zoom, Facebook Live and WhatsApp to tune in to services.

Though it’s typically a community affair, my family and I quietly welcomed Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, alone in our living room as the sun set on April 23. Instead of hearing an imam make the call to prayer, ushering in 30 days of heightened spiritual reflection, we listened as the call came in through a prayer app on our phones.

So began our journey of avoiding all food and drink, including water, during the daytime, and focusing on boosting our relationship with God through prayer and reflection.

Ramadan is different this year.

Shelter-in-place means worshipping at the mosque is out. So is inviting friends over for “iftar,” the meal that breaks the dawn-to-dusk fast. A holiday meant to bring the community together is being observed apart.

But not alone. Throughout Ramadan, Muslim religious leaders have used Instagram Live and Facebook to deliver lectures and conduct Q&As. Community centers, as well as friends, host virtual iftars on Zoom, where people share their experiences and offer religious reflections as they break the fast. Fundraisers for mosques and charities, which usually take place during the nightly communal prayers, have gone completely digital.

As the COVID-19 pandemic upends life, technology has kept communities of faith connected. Christians celebrated Easter by attending virtual services on Zoom and Facebook Live. Jews around the world attended virtual seders for Passover. Muslims have adopted the same technologies to celebrate Ramadan, which ends May 23.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNET

Interfaith ‘virtual iftar’ in Maryland celebrates the power of prayer during Ramadan, COVID-19

2_virtual-iftar-eric_maddoxEven as the COVID-19 pandemic devastates communities and causes suffering around the world, it is prayer that remains “a source of thousands of miracles,” Murabbi Mubasher Ahmad told an online audience across Maryland Saturday evening.

Ahmad, the imam of the Silver Spring-based Ahmadiyya Community USA, made the remark as part of a first-ever “virtual iftar” — a digital version of the ceremonial dinners Muslims traditionally use to break their daily fasts during the holy month of Ramadan.

Titled “The Power of Prayer During a Pandemic,” the event featured speakers representing Jewish, Christian, Hindu and Islamic communities in Maryland, each offering thoughts on the importance of prayer amid catastrophes such as the ongoing health crisis.

The event was the latest example of faith traditions taking their religious observances online amid restrictions on large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE BALTIMORE SUN 

Too poor to buy, too scared to meet: Palestinians face joyless Ramadan

GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The electric lanterns and ornate decorations of Ramadan would normally be hanging in the streets of Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem by now, but not this year amid coronavirus restrictions and growing economic woes.

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A Palestinian worker sprays water outside shops decorated ahead of the holy fasting month, amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the southern Gaza Strip April 22, 2020. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

The holy fasting month is expected to start on Friday but, as elsewhere, Palestinians this year are facing the prospect of celebrations without the usual large gatherings for family meals or evening prayers, known as Tarawih.

And the same closures that are set to dampen the mood are also suppressing the economy – Palestinian officials have ordered the closure of schools, wedding halls, restaurants and mosques, sending tens of thousands into unemployment.

With two deaths and 335 infected cases reported, different coronavirus regulations have been imposed by Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and by Israel in East Jerusalem, where Muslim religious authorities have stopped worship at the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam..

A global look inside a Ramadan dampened by coronavirus

From Chicago to the West Bank, the coronavirus has closed mosques and altered traditions for Muslims during Islam’s holy month.

covid-ramadan_01.adapt.1900.1Every year during Ramadan, Tarik Haque, a Bangladeshi army veteran who lives in Chicago, looks forward to breaking his fast at the end of the day alongside hundreds of others. He cherishes the traditions: After sunset, people standing shoulder to shoulder behind the imam for the fourth prayer of the day, known as maghrib. The mosque filling with the smell of crispy piajus (fried lentils and cilantro), fruit chat (a South Asian fruit salad), and rooh afza (an herbal drink mixed with water or milk).

The ninth and holiest month on the Muslim calendar, Ramadan is believed to be when God revealed the first verses of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, the central figure of Islam, the world’s second largest religion. In the U.S., 80 percent of Muslims say they fast from before dawn to dusk for the month, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s nearly double the number who say they pray five times a day or attend mosque every week during the rest of the year.

FULL ARTICLE WITH STUNNING PICTURES FROM NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC 

During pandemic, Islamic call to prayer cultivates community

6a43217b-6358-4500-9c3e-7d58b7b7b17e.sized-1000x1000On the initial day of Ramadan, Abdirahman Mukhtar brought his children to hear the adhan broadcast through the streets of Cedar-Riverside, a first for Minneapolis.

The daily call to prayer has been broadcast live from Dar Al-Hijrah Mosque since April 23 and will continue throughout the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Some community members said the adhan helps cultivate a sense of community during COVID-19 social distancing.

“The call to prayer really gives us that opportunity to continue to be connected to the mosque,” said Mukhtar, a resident of Cedar-Riverside and community leader. “That’s why I actually took my kids to witness that historic day. It’s spiritual, emotional, and you know, well-being for all of us.”

The adhan occurs five times a day before prayer. The first prayer happens around 4 or 5 a.m. to mark the beginning of fasting that spans the rest of the day. Muslims typically gather after sunset for a large celebratory meal to break the daily fast — but that has not been possible due to the pandemic.

“In Islam, you know, saving lives is very important. If you save one life, it is similar to saving humanity,” Mukhtar said. “The social distancing — this is also saving lives.”

The social aspect of Islam is especially important during Ramadan, which community organizer Abdirizak Bihi said has been a challenge for the community.

“The mosque is really the place,” Bihi said. “The sacred refuge where people go not only to pray, but also to socialize and to see each other and talk to each other after they come out of the mosque, to stand outside and talk about jobs, news, everything.”

Bihi said the call to prayer acted like an “alarm clock” each morning around 5 a.m. while he was growing up in Somalia. He has not heard an adhan publicly broadcast in 30 years.

“Oh my god, the last time I heard it was in Egypt before I came to the United States,” Bihi said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM MNDAILY.COM

As American Muslims fast this Ramadan, maybe the rest of America should consider joining in

ramadanImam Omar Suleiman is the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and an Islamic studies professor at Southern Methodist University.

For Muslims, Ramadan is a time in which we fast from God’s blessings that are readily available to us and that we often take for granted.

Among the wisdoms of fasting is that if we voluntarily abstain from food and drink, we will be able to better empathize with those who are facing hardships due to poverty.

But it is not enough to merely experience hunger for the sake of your own spiritual discipline. One must also be activated toward fighting collective hunger. The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “He is not a believer who sleeps with his stomach filled while his neighbor goes to bed hungry.” If a person cannot fast due to a permanent medical condition, they are to feed a poor person for every day they miss. And before the community gathers at the end of the month to feast on the day of Eid, each able person is obligated to provide what is called Zakat al-Fitr, a small charitable donation that is taken a few days before the Eid to ensure that the poor are able to feast as well.

A year later, Hurricane Katrina hit our community in New Orleans. A 61-year-old convert to Islam who lost everything that year confessed to me in a shelter with tears in his eyes that he got so hungry one night that he dug through his suitcase only to find a container of years-old lard from his cupboard to break his fast with. He laughed and recalled the Somali woman. He never thought he would be in a situation like hers.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE WASHINGTON POST

A Muslim community in Michigan has come together with a Ramadan lights challenge to lift spirits during the holiday

200427165018-01-ramadan-lights-challenge-exlarge-169(CNN) For Muslims around the world, the holy month of Ramadan looks a little different this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gone are the community gatherings for evening prayers, and nightly feasts to break fasts with friends and family.

That’s why the Muslim community in Dearborn, Michigan, decided to start a new tradition this year, one that could be done while still abiding by social distancing guidelines.
The community is hosting a Ramadan lights competition in hopes of spreading joy and bringing back some of the holiday spirit.
While many Muslims decorate their homes during the month, a similar tradition to hanging Christmas lights, this year, the Dearborn community has turned the custom into a challenge.
Residents are invited to nominate their own houses, or their neighbor’s, by sharing their address and a photo of their decorated home by May 11. The photos will be shared on social media and the public can vote on their 10 favorite houses from each district. Judges will then pick the best lit-up homes in the city.
Documentary filmmaker Razi Jafri, who works for the Center for Arab American Studies at the University of Michigan-Dearborn, launched the challenge in collaboration with the Michigan Muslim Community Council and the city’s annual Ramadan Suhoor Festival.
The competition is also a part of Halal Metropolis, a project Jafri works on at the center to document the lives of Muslims in Southeast Michigan.
“This will help raise spirits by providing a positive, pro-social project for the community to get involved with,” Jafri told CNN. “It’s amazing because both Muslims and non-Muslims in the community are getting so excited about it. There’s been so much positive energy that has come out of this already. “
A home in Dearborn lit up for Ramadan in 2019.

Muslims Around The World Face A Different Kind Of Ramadan

ramadan 2As the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims begin observing the holy month of Ramadan, traditionally a time of dawn-to-dusk fasting, festivities and communal prayer, an unprecedented global pandemic is changing the celebration this year in equally unprecedented ways.

Mosques usually brimming with the faithful during Ramadan are closed, including in Saudi Arabia, home to Mecca and Medina, the holiest cities in Islam. The kingdom has some 14,000 confirmed cases, with more than 120 deaths from COVID-19, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Ramadan, the month that Muslims believe God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad, officially begins at the first sighting of the waxing crescent after the new moon, leading to different countries declaring its start a day or two apart.

In Saudi Arabia, the start of the holy month began Friday. In Egypt, it began Thursday. And in Iran, Ramadan begins Saturday.

In a statement, Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud lamented the necessity to maintain social distancing to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus and the damper it would place on this year’s celebrations.

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FULL ARTICLE FROM NPR