Experiencing The Ramadan Fasting Under Lockdown By Imam Murtadha Gusau

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Monday, Sha’aban 26, 1441 AH (20/04/2020)

In the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy

All perfect praise be to Allah, The Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allah and that Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is His servant and Messenger.

Dear brothers and sisters, with Ramadan fast approaching and Covid-19 not showing any sign of moving out of the way, this blessed month of Ramadan dawns upon us shrouded in many uncertainties; uncertainties we had never imagined. No more Tarawih prayer? End of iftars at the Mosque? What about Eid prayer? Can we still reap the same blessings? These are a few questions on the minds of many Muslims, who have always enjoyed Ramadan for its spirit of collectiveness.

Mosques around the world have had to close their doors to curb the spread of this coronavirus, and countries have been sent into unprecedented lockdowns across the world. Staying at home all day is proving a challenge for many. However, as Muslims, it is incumbent that we stay positive and see the glass half full rather than half empty.

Spending Ramadan at home can be a blessing in disguise, but only if we choose to make it so. While there are many vices and evils that are prohibited in Islam, fasting is a practice that teaches us to give up even that which is permissible, i.e. food and drink. Why? To excel spiritually, develop self-control, relate with those less fortunate and, in turn, progress in gratitude.

Interestingly, the coronavirus lockdown is teaching us the very same thing. We have given up our freedom, our right to socialise and our usual means of entertainment. These are only but a few examples of abstaining from what is usually permissible or even encouraged. All this became possible and endurable because of the end-result in mind: the greater good of humanity.

This really puts life into perspective and makes us realise just how lucky we usually are; to have the freedom to do whatever we want, whenever we want! See how a small shift in mind-set can work wonders!

Nevertheless, lockdown does not mean that we must sit at home during Ramadan just thinking about food and freedom. Why not put all the negativity aside and make this year’s Ramadan a very special one; that too from the comfort of our own homes.

All year round, every Muslim yearns to comprehend the meanings of the Noble Qur’an, understand its message, get to know the one to whom it was revealed (Prophet Muhammad Peace be upon him) and above all, fall in love with the One Who revealed it (Allah Almighty).

But packed schedules and busy timetables have always stood in the way of doing so; a challenge that many of us have always complained about. Now, with more time, opportunity is at our doorstep; to read, study, understand, enjoy and absorb the warmth and radiant light of the most majestic and revolutionising word in the whole of the universe.

The special connection between Ramadan and the Noble Qur’an is a well-known fact, as it was the month in which this Noble Book was revealed. Allah Almighty says:

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind.” [Qur’an, 2: 186]

Every year, we strive to complete a full reading of the Noble Qur’an during Ramadan, but with all this time, isn’t it a golden opportunity to take this connection with the Noble Book to a new level, where we know and understand what we read?

Everyone, irrespective of age, can invest this extra time into this blessed activity. Beginners can start to learn to read the Qur’an; those who can read can now learn basic Arabic; those who know basic Arabic can now focus on the translation and tafsir (exegesis and explanation of the Qur’an).

This lockdown is the perfect time to finally make the Qur’an a companion in our lives.

Let’s turn this Ramadan, which will be significantly different in its outlook, into an experience significantly different from any previous year.

Then there are Tarawih prayers, which are a great socio-spiritual aspect of Ramadan. We are all accustomed to making our ways to the Mosque every night, standing shoulder to shoulder, and listening to the Noble Qur’an being recited. So, with Tarawih now being taken out of the picture has left many of us wondering how to fill this vacuum. Well, let us have the Noble Qur’an come to the rescue again.

Although Tarawih can be offered individually, in the early or late parts of the night, but what makes the congregational Tarawih so special is that we get to listen to a greater portion of the Noble Qur’an every night. So why not offer Tarawih in congregation at home and prepare for it during the day by memorising a small part, or even a few verses to recite before the family.

The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that the most beloved deeds to Allah are those done consistently, even if they are small. Just imagine the end-result of committing a few new verses every day to memory. We will have learnt new parts of the Noble Qur’an by the time we approach Eid; what more happiness can Eid bring with it!

Last but not the least is an aspect of Ramadan observed in the final ten days, called I‘itikaf, a spiritual exercise where one willingly decides to self-isolate from the world and live in a Mosque for the sole purpose of gaining nearness to the Almighty. This is no easy task, but then again, in life, no reward worth attaining comes easy. I am sure all of us have wondered, “Would we really be able to do sit I‘itikaf for ten days? Would we really be able to stay away from technology, friends and work, all whilst being confined within four walls, all day and night?”

Well now, we do not need to wonder anymore. This lockdown is allowing us to experience a type of I‘itikaf in our own homes. So why not use this Allah-given opportunity to get a feel of what I‘itikaf is really like. Instead of aimlessly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram timelines and binge-watching Netflix, why not spend our time doing things that will benefit us in the long run?

Though we all wish this lockdown would end and the horrible suffering would come to a swift halt, spending time at home is allowing us to stay away from things we never thought we could live without and is finally giving us the opportunity to do the things we never thought we actually could.

“The month of Ramadan is that in which the Qur’an was sent down as a guidance for mankind.” [Qur’an, 2:186]

Being the month in which the Qur’an was revealed, this Ramadan, why not let the word of Allah illuminate and enlighten our hearts, our souls and our homes during this period of uncertainty.

In life, staying positive and optimistic in any situation comes down to perspective; the glass isn’t half-empty after all, it’s half-full. Isn’t it?

Respected brothers and sisters, as previously mentioned, the Islamic Noble month is just days away and many believers are preparing to put traditions on hold due to social distancing and life under lockdown.

The Muslims Noble month of Ramadan is expected to start on April 23 or 24 and will go on until the day of Eid-ul-Fitr on approximately May 23 or 24.

Ramadan is a special time for the world’s almost two billion Muslims, not just for the spiritual obligations they undertake such as fasting, but also for its social function.

For many, it is a time spent with family members for the daily evening meal called iftar and the morning meal, known as suhur.

But this year’s event comes amid exceptional circumstances, which could force Muslims to do away with some of their most valued traditions – temporarily.

The global coronavirus pandemic, which started at a wet market in China’s Wuhan province, has led to the infections of more than 2 million people and killed more than 150,000 people at the time of publication on April 20.

A highly contagious disease, with an apparent death rate of between one and three percent, the Covid-19 virus has forced governments across the world to implement lockdowns and enforce social distancing measures, such as a ban on public gatherings.

These have invariably included religious gatherings, with a vast majority of Muslim countries suspending congregational prayers and services, such as the weekly Friday prayer.

With the pandemic, and following lockdown measures expected to continue for weeks, Muslims are preparing for an inevitable adjustment in practices.

The signature act of the month of Ramadan is fasting, and for the vast majority of the faithful there should be no impact on that particular tradition. Keeping the fast may even be easier if people stay at home and avoid the physically taxing activities they would be participating in outside in the heat.

Nevertheless, Islamic injunctions on who should keep a fast take on added significance during a time of mass illness.

Muslims are exempt from fasting during illness and such a ruling would naturally extend to those who are suffering from the coronavirus.

But while fasting will likely go on, one tradition that will definitely be impacted is the nightly Tarawih prayer.

Each night in Ramadan, Muslims gather at Mosques for an optional additional prayer, which is in addition to their five daily ones.

With obligatory congregational prayers, such as Friday prayers, cancelled, there is little likelihood Tarawih prayers will commence this year.

Religious traditions are just one aspect of the Muslim Noble month, as it is also a time in which Muslims make a special effort to spend time with their families, particularly during the iftar meal.

To be clear, for people isolating with their immediate family members, life would continue on pretty much normally. However, one of the great traditions of Ramadan, is inviting friends and relatives over to break the fast together.
Lockdowns and social distancing measures will make doing so in 1441/2020 near impossible, unless the pandemic dies down before the Eid holiday, which is unlikely.

To compensate for this lack of social interaction, some Muslims are using technologies such as Zoom to arrange communal online iftars.

Poorer Muslims may also suffer disproportionately as they are normally reliant on communal iftars hosted by wealthier members of their community. In countries, such as Nigeria for example, lavish banquets are laid out by businessmen for labourers.

While such restrictions will inevitably hamper the spirit of Ramadan, acts of charity can still be arranged through organisations that have the logistical capabilities to distribute food to the poor during the lockdown.

While Ramadan has many social characteristics, it is primarily a month of personal contemplation. It could be that staying at home with fewer material distractions will help people grow more spiritually than in preceding years.

Dear brothers and sisters, this is one of the best time to give charity, especially food and other basic human needs. Don’t hesitate to give as much as you can.

May Allah in His Infinite Mercy safeguard us, heal the infected patients of Covid-19 and all sick all over the world, and remove the epidemic entirely from the surface of the earth. Ameen.

All praise is due to Allah, Lord of the worlds. May the peace, blessings and salutations of Allah be upon our Noble Messenger, Muhammad, and upon his family, his Companions and his true followers.

 

 

Written by your brother, Imam Murtadha Muhammad Gusau, from Okene, Kogi State, Nigeria. He can be reached via: gusauimam@gmail.com or +2348038289761.

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