Written by Mai Hegazy, CAI’s Manager of Global Destination Services
The Holy month of Ramadan is observed by about 1.6 billion Muslims all over the world. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is a very special time in Islam. The holy book of Quran was revealed to Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) during the month of Ramadan, hence the month is known as month of Quran.
Muslims observe the month by fasting from dawn to sunset, abstaining from food and drinking (even water). Islam has 5 main pillars, and fasting is one of them. Because the Quran was revealed during the month of Ramadan, this month witnesses heightened worship and spirituality by increasing prayers, reading the Holy Quran, charitable giving, connecting with family, friends and community members, in addition to fasting. Fasting is an act of worship and showing submission to Allah. It is a way to strengthen will power, purify the soul and body, get closer to God, and feel for others who are less fortunate.
The month is very festive, with many communal activities. These activities can include mealtime, breaking the fast (Iftar), prayer, or general gatherings for religious or social purposes. Families, friends, neighbors, and community members gather around the table for “Iftar” to celebrate the break of the fast. Miles and miles of tables are extended throughout the streets of most Muslim countries, where meals are donated and served for the less fortunate, or those who do not have family members to congregate with during these special times. Everyone is welcomed, no questions asked
The meal is followed by group extended prayers at the mosque. This is known as “Tarawih Prayers” and can last for a few hours. Mosques are packed with worshipers gathered for these special prayers. These communal acts of worship are held in the belief that there is greater reward for prayers made in congregation.
All these festivities are going to be interrupted this year by COVID! The doors of mosques have closed all across the world. The call of prayer has changed from “Come for Prayer” to “Pray at home”! Communal festivities and gatherings over mealtime will now be limited to members of the same household or virtual meals over video chat. As this brings enormous change to rooted traditions and practices, we all reflect and try to find peace and comfort through the chaos.
We are blessed to be able to look at technology from a different perspective and employ it to bring people together. Many mosques will offer online alternatives, such as video conference platforms or live streaming, as a substitute for traditional congregation for prayer. Study circles have been set up virtually via several video conferencing platforms. Fundraising efforts have significantly increased in preparation for the Holy month to make available meals and resources for families in need.
This year, I count my numerous blessings! I am blessed to have my immediate family around and be able to have quality time with them. I will not be cooking for hours and hours to entertain friends and extended community members but will rather focus on my immediate family. I am blessed to be working from home, saving over an hour each way on my commute to the office. I am blessed to have more time to pray, worship, and get closer to the essence of Ramadan. I am blessed to have supportive co-workers and an employer focused on people, celebrating their differences and embracing them. I am blessed that I have avenues to share resources with less fortunate and make sure I am able to partake in the greater good.