Ramadan 2020 will be like no other Ramadan we have experienced before. Here in the UK, and around the world, our brothers and sisters are facing the Holy month of Ramadan under circumstances that have not only impacted our everyday lives but will alter how we engage and celebrate both Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr.
The global Coronavirus pandemic – also known as COVID-19 – is one that has called for social distancing and lockdown measures across the world. It has led to shortages in supermarkets for essential goods, our towns and cities being closed down, and whole nations being asked to stay at home to protect themselves from this deadly virus. That being said, this is for the greater good, and we should be grateful that we have our health and our faith during these unprecedented times.
Our team here at UK Islamic Mission wants everyone to have a safe and healthy Ramadan 2020, and so have put together a short guide on how best to stay safe during these testing times, while answering any questions you may have.
With lockdown measures in place, going to the supermarket is encouraged only when essential and there have been instances of product shortages occurring. Ensure a smooth transition into Ramadan by planning your Iftar and Suhoor meals in advance and order any foods you might need online where possible.
With daily fasting throughout Ramadan, high-energy and slow-burning foods such as dates are traditionally eaten to maintain energy levels throughout the day. This is even more important through this pandemic as trips out and about are prohibited unless for daily exercise and essential food shopping. Remember to make healthy food choices, with fresh foods and vegetables, and stay hydrated during non-fasting hours.
While the fasting aspect will be no different, there are many other aspects of Ramadan which will change this year, and the loss of community-focused parts of this blessed month will be greatly missed.
For instance, visits to Mosques and congregational worship are prohibited during lockdown to curb the spread of the virus. Many mosques are providing live streams or pre-recorded Qur’an readings, prayers, and lectures to ensure guidance is still available.
Lockdown guidelines also stipulate that you must not spend time with anyone outside of your household, which means that Iftar meals this year will be very different from normal. While you cannot physically share this meal with your family and loved ones, you can organise a virtual Iftar gathering to stay in touch throughout Ramadan.
According to the World Health Organisation and infectious disease experts, any fit and healthy individual who would usually observe fasting can continue to do so safely this year. Although no research has been undertaken into the effects of fasting on a person with COVID-19, owing to the unique circumstances surrounding the disease, it is widely believed that following social distancing, hygiene guidelines and being sensible with Iftar and Suhoor food choices will enable a healthy Muslim to fast safely.
Another way you can ensure this Ramadan is safe is to maintain good hygiene. COVID-19 guidelines suggest washing hands more frequently, with soap and water for at least 20-30 seconds, particularly after leaving the house, coughing or touching anything that may have been touched by those outside of your household. Ensure you maintain social distancing guidelines during any trips for essential goods or during daily exercise out of the home.
The act of Wudhu is another aspect that can be made safer this Ramadan. This ritual washing which is performed before prayers should include the use of soap, especially as you will be touching your face. Whilst using soap during Wudhu is usually not permitted, both UNESCO and the World Health Organisation (WHO) have determined that washing with soap protects against COVID-19 infections.
The most vulnerable – those who are suffering from ill-health, the elderly and pregnant women – are typically exempt from fasting during Ramadan. If you get sick during Ramadan, you are also exempt from fasting, but you have the option to make up this fast at a later date or pay Fidya.
If you suspect you have Coronavirus or are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, then it is advised to seek medical assistance to ensure the safety of you and your family. If a medical expert can rule out any serious symptoms or ailments, then one may continue to fast. However, if you choose this option, it should never be to the detriment of your physical health.
Lockdown measures have led to businesses suffering as a result of this pandemic. While many people have been furloughed as a result of this, there are still a fortunate number of people who are able to work from home. That being said, key workers and frontline staff – doctors, nurses, carers, teachers, and those working to provide essentials – pharmacies, retail staff, postal workers, utilities and transport workers are still required to work as normal.
It is advised to give your employer notice that you will be observing fasts throughout Ramadan for accommodations to be made. Where possible, request earlier starts or flexible hours to fit around meals and prayers to make your working day as accommodating as possible. However, for key workers, this may not always be possible.
Congregational and communal prayers, such as evening Tarawih prayers are prohibited for Ramadan 2020 with mosques being closed. However, if you are lucky enough to have a garden, then you are able to pray outside as you wish. If you have access to shared outdoor space, then praying outside should be avoided, even with social distancing measures in place.
Additionally, whilst traditional Friday khutbah attendance is not possible due to social distancing requirements, we recommend attending online events as an alternative. We host Friday khutbah live streams online on our Facebook page.
Another aspect of Ramadan 2020 that will differ to normal is giving zakat and charity donations. While making these donations online has become popular over recent years, there are always fundraising events that take place at mosques and within local communities outside of this.
While visits to mosques are prohibited during the lockdown, you can calculate and give zakat as well as make charitable donations with UK Islamic Mission here.
This year, Eid-ul-Fitr is expected to fall in the evening of 24th May, subject to the official moon sighting. This three-day festival celebrates the breaking of the fast, and is a much-beloved and enjoyed period, which is spent with family, friends and loved ones in the community. While lockdown measures here in the UK are being reviewed on a 3-weekly basis, it is likely that Eid this year will still be impacted by social distancing. Many Ramadan traditions such as prayer and eating with family (providing they live with you) can still take place, however, the more social aspects of Eid celebrations this year will mean Eid-ul-Fitr 2020 may well be much less community-driven than usual.
We hope that this helps to allay any worries you may have about how COVID-19 will affect both Ramadan 2020 and Eid-ul-Fitr, but also that it highlights just how much we have to be thankful for. Many of our brothers and sisters around the world do not have the security of working from home, or even a family to share this worrying time with, and for that, we must use this as a learning opportunity from Allah (SWT) and appreciate all that he does for us.
From our families to yours, Ramadan Mubarak.
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