Because of the new coronavirus pandemic, a coalition of 40 American Muslim organizations has recommended that Muslims observe Ramadan — with its fasting, praying and giving — at home this year.
Safety is a priority, says Salman Azam, a board member of the Downtown Islamic Center in Chicago. “But social distancing does not have to be social isolation.”
Shakeer Abdullah, an administrator at Clayton State University in Georgia, agrees. He, his wife and their four children are spending more time together than during past Ramadans. “We started a garden as a family, and we are tending to our garden,” he says, adding that he’s also had more time to read the Quran and reflect.
Azam says that while the Chicago center’s members are staying apart, they too are finding a positive “byproduct of this very special, very different COVID Ramadan.” He and his wife have dedicated a space in their home for prayer. “We’ve become closer to God,” he says.
Sarah Farid-Chaudhry, a nutritionist in Connecticut, and her husband want to make Ramadan meaningful for their two young children. “We have a play tent that we brought into our living room, and we make that the kids’ makeshift mosque,” she says. “We read books to them and teach them about Islam and Ramadan.”
The family shares a meal together before starting the day’s fast, something they could not have done previously due to the children’s school schedule. (The children’s school is closed because of the pandemic.) On some mornings, Farid-Chaudhry cooks waffles at 3:30 a.m. “We’re able to provide our kids with a different Ramadan experience,” she says.
Faran Saeed recently moved across the country to start his Ph.D. studies at Oregon State University. He does not know anyone in his new city but his girlfriend. The couple arranges with friends to cook the same iftar dishes while videoconferencing. “I can still nourish my soul with my faith,” Saeed says.
Mohannad Al-Samarraie, an ophthalmologist in Columbia, Missouri, and his family enjoy the online lectures hosted by their mosque, featuring speakers from all over the country. “One of the hidden blessings in this is that it’s brought us closer to the larger Muslim community,” he says.
Zina Raoof, who lives in Virginia, says that normally at this time of year her college-age daughters would be busy with friends. But this Ramadan, they are cooking together. “We have time to prepare the traditional meal, and we are discovering new meals and recipes,” she says.
American Muslims are continuing the tradition of zakat, or charitable giving, despite social distancing. Zamir Hassan, founder of Muslims Against Hunger and Hunger Van, has distributed more than 20,000 meals to neighbors in a senior community in Kissimmee, Florida. He wears a face mask and drives a golf cart to drop off the ready-to-make meals of rice, cumin, lentils and quinoa.
During Ramadan, which ends May 23, Hassan says, “cook some food and give it to your neighbor. Or buy some extra groceries for your neighbor when you go to get groceries for yourself.”
The coronavirus pandemic has “made us even stronger,” he says.
Freelancer Linda Wang wrote this article.