Coronavirus, community and Ramadan

Coronavirus, community and Ramadan

Celebrating Ramadan during social distancing can feel odd, yet the communal aspects of it need not to be forgotten. There are many ways to safely keep in touch with your community during Ramadan to avoid feelings of loneliness.

The current covid-19 pandemic has touched everyone’s lives this spring. In order to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we have had to keep ourselves from socialising, including seeing our friends and families. Consequently, many are struggling with the sudden loss of a religious community, as churches, mosques, synagogues et cetera have closed – perhaps a time so uncertain may even call for an increased need to connect with one’s faith. The holy month of Ramadan is also affected by the social distancing measures, and many Muslims have had to adapt to a very different way of doing it.

Adapting to #RamadanAtHome

Community is a central aspect of Ramadan: normally, communal prayer, doing charity work and breaking the fast at sunset whilst socialising with one’s local community all are deeply meaningful acts for Muslims during the holy month. This year the lockdown measures have meant that places of worship, even including places such as Mecca, are closed from the public and gatherings are severely restricted. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) recommends that Muslims do adapt their Ramadan celebrations to adhere to the government’s restrictions to save lives during this pandemic. What this might mean in practice during Ramadan, however, is that many could be feeling a lot more isolated than normal, as a central part of their holy month is now inaccessible. Certainly, social connections have not lost their meaning during this time. As many are experiencing the numerous sorrows and difficulties a global pandemic brings, it becomes even more crucial to frequently keep in touch with your loved ones, even if you are physically separated from each other. Ultimately, isolation itself is an act for our communities as it is done to ensure their safety, as the MCB points out .

Tips for spending your Ramadan in isolation

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The lockdown does not mean that you could not enjoy celebrating Ramadan. As mentioned before, physical distance does not have to mean loneliness. Consider joining a video call with your loved ones while you prepare your Iftar meal, for example – some free video calling apps include WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Skype among others. This Ramadan is also an especially good time for tech-savvy young people to discover more about their local community through for example listening to sermons at their local mosques. There are many great opportunities to reach out to the wider Muslim community too: for instance, the London-based Ramadan Tent Project has moved its Open Iftar –events online on Zoom, where anyone can join to interact with fellow Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Understandably, many will find themselves struggling with suddenly having to use communication technology they are not used to. Especially the elderly may feel lonely in isolation, as they may not be as familiar with using mobile devices as their younger relatives. Age UK suggests that the chosen technology should be as user-friendly as possible: there are even special devices just for video calling. Nevertheless, if you know an elderly family member is not coping well with Ramadan in isolation and struggles with technology, do offer your help – maintaining safe social distancing, of course. Even a regular phone call can make a huge difference in someone’s day and remind them that despite the lockdown, Ramadan is still about community.

In addition, taking care of your mental health should not be overlooked in the slightest during isolation, as the situation may understandably result in heightened levels of anxiety. If you are fasting, the MCB recommends that you stay energised by taking regular breaks and ensuring you are getting enough hydration and energy prior to dawn. Again, staying connected to the people close to you and discussing any worries you may have is absolutely imperative in managing stress and negative feelings evoked by the situation.

JAN Trust is an award-winning grassroots organisation that has been involved in building strong communities for 31 years now. Cohesion in communities creates resilience against extremism and gang recruitment, for example. Working with such issues gives us a real appreciation of the value of connecting with people, whether in isolation or not. Remember that you are not alone during this time.