While Ramadan is typically a time for Muslim communities the world over to come together, and to pray, fast and reflect, COVID19 restrictions have put a stop to any social gatherings.
So the community is coming up with innovative ways to mark the occasion in 2020 – together yet separately.
Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and lasts for 29 or 30 days depending on the sighting of the new moon. For Muslims in New Zealand, Ramadan kicked off on Saturday 25 April.
Muslim community member, Ben Gresham says it’s been amazing to see leaders stepping up to be flexible and innovative.
“In general the scholars have been really open to engaging in new questions of celebrating Ramadan in a world where we can’t physically come together to pray, fast and reflect.”
“Many people have had to think a little bit differently but it’s great to see the religion is capable of dealing with this,” says Gresham.
Muslim countries across the globe typically change many aspects of their operations to accommodate the needs of the community during Ramadan. In New Zealand, the month is not so visible on the streets.
Yet our mosques come alive in this time.
Gresham says one of the important aspects of Ramadan is the act of fasting, which is typically experienced together.
During Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, and will typically come together to break the fast and enjoy a shared meal (known as an iftar).
“As we share the same mealtime, we would usually invite others over for a meal, or attend large iftars at the mosque. Feeding others who are fasting is a key feature of community connectivity during this month,” says Gresham.
A night prayer, known as a Taraweeh, also takes place. This prayer is only conducted in Ramadan and is a congregational prayer.
Gresham says these things will obviously be impacted by COVID19 restrictions, yet there are many other aspects that won’t – and they might even be enhanced during this period.
“Fasting is ultimately a spiritual and personal journey. It is an opportunity to grow and explore personal development. The fast is not just about abstaining from food and water but improving yourself. Being in isolation will allow people to delve deeper into this aspect.”
Gresham says Ramadan is also about the coming together of family, which will be no different when in a bubble.
The last part of Ramadan encourages people to go into personal seclusion, or a personal lockdown.
“So people will be taking advantage of that, while in lockdown,” says Gresham.
In Canterbury, both Al Nur and Linwood mosques are ensuring their community remains connected by delivering iftar packs to homes.
Gresham says as a community, it was decided online prayer was not suitable. Online religious lectures will however, be run on Facebook, Youtube and Zoom during this time.
“Everyone around the world is doing this so we can connect with those in the US, Australia, UK, and our friends in the North Island,” says Gresham.
Many mosques around New Zealand are arranging iftar (breaking fast) food packs. Families are advised to contact their mosques to find out more information.