Dr. Fethi Ahmed, Research Coordinator at the Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics – part of Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s College of Islamic Studies - shares his experience of the Holy Month against a backdrop of COVID-19.
Fasting during Ramadan remains one of the pillars of the Muslim faith, including during times of crisis. Compared to previous years, Ramadan has a different flavor in 2020, and I am enjoying the unique experience of fasting during a pandemic that has changed the life circumstances of everyone across the globe.
One of the positive things about the current situation is that I am enjoying having the time and flexibility to manage my religious obligations, work tasks, and family and social responsibilities because of the precautionary measures
One of the positive things about the current situation is that I am enjoying having the time and flexibility to manage my religious obligations, work tasks, and family and social responsibilities because of the precautionary measures. I am sad that, this year. I am not attending congregational prayers at mosques and I will not be able to go for I’tikaf during the last ten days of Ramadan in a mosque as I sometimes used to do, but I am hopeful that Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, will reward me for the intention.
There are many factors that have influenced the choices we have to make due to coronavirus, and, a as a member of society, I have been trained to respect the public good, live in conformity with the rules and regulations set by the government authorities, and enjoy the freedoms in this context, as I believe that freedom and responsibility are two inseparable values.
Due to COVID-19, many things have changed but Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, has given us the potential to think about and explore choices that allow us to adapt to any new situations. For instance, while I miss the congregational prayers at mosques, I conduct congregational prayers with my wife and children at home. In addition, I used to invite people to break their fast with me at home or in a restaurant, but this year I donated some money to charity organizations to provide iftar on my behalf to less fortunate Muslims who are fasting.
Also, during Ramadan this year, I have ample time to be more active in reading the Qur’an. On average, I read two to three juzu’ every day, and my goal is to make at least three khatmah [reading the whole Qur’an] by the end of Ramadan. I also have ample time to offer more voluntary prayers such as dhuha prayer and tahajjud almost every day.
Furthermore, I do my work from home and perform extra tasks for m professional development as well as research and publication. However, I really miss the access to the great amenities in Qatar Foundation’s Education City, especially the library services and facilities at the Recreation Center.
The great advantage I feel I have during Ramadan this year is having time, flexibility, resolve, responsibility, and full control over anything I want to do. I am not exposed to the outside world, weather, social encroachment, and strain in the work environment. What I miss is face-to-face meetings, chats, jokes, and outings with friends and relatives. I have also to put more effort into increasing my self-motivation and strengthening my resolve to perform my religious, work, family, and social duties with Ehsan as best as I can.
The precautionary measures that have been put in place have reduced our physical exertions, and consequently made fasting more bearable
On the other hand, the precautionary measures that have been put in place have reduced our physical exertions, and consequently made fasting more bearable. I think the journey towards acquiring taqwa during Ramadan this year has become easier, with less exposure to things that may invalidate our fasting, and more time to refine our obligatory prayers and offer more voluntary worshipping. Additionally, during this pandemic – and in difficult times in general - people usually return to Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, and increase their Dua’ [supplication] for relief from crisis and hardship.
One of the advantages of the current situation is that it brings family members closer to each other and enables them to spend more time together. There are many simple ways for family members to make this Ramadan a unique experience. They can enjoy congregational obligatory and voluntary prayers. They can make learning circles to recite the Qur’an together or read some selected chapters from our Islamic heritage library or other books. And they can help one another in their work, studies, and projects. For example, elder children help the younger ones in their study, and husbands can support their wives through performing chores within the household.
People can also have more time to engage in voluntary and charity works to support the poor, needy, and sick. I also feel it is very important to leave some space for family members to be creative in their own way as they look to make this Ramadan a unique and fruitful journey and experience.
It is important to remember that fasting during Ramadan is a journey of struggle and patience from the beginning to the end. Doing this away from family and friends reflects these struggles
Obviously, people are social beings, and it would generally be difficult for people to spend Ramadan while being isolated from family and friends. However, it is important to remember that fasting during Ramadan is a journey of struggle and patience from the beginning to the end. Doing this away from family and friends reflects these struggles, and if people accept this situation and be patient, Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate, will reward them.
Effective use of new forms of communication, particularly different social media platforms, can reduce the feeling of loneliness and unhappiness that many people may be experiencing. Above all, it is vital to recognize that this situation will change and certainly, as Allah, the Merciful, the Compassionate promised, with hardship comes ease. So people just need to do their best, be patient, and be optimistic.
Members of society need each other for their survival. They need to be upright and set a good example for each other. They also need to be approachable to others, especially their relatives, neighbors, and friends. It is also important for the members of society to support the community morally as well as practically. They need to show their solidarity during difficult times.
Lastly, yet perhaps most importantly, we need to avoid demonstrating behaviors that might be harmful or destructive – and be merciful and peaceful to each other.