Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Muslims are adapting to the government issued Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act during Ramadan. Ramadan is observed worldwide by millions, but celebrations this year will be unlike any other.
This year Ramadan takes place from the evening of April 23 until May 23. Sarah Wahidi is a third-year student pursuing her Honours Bachelor of Public Health. Wahidi, along with her Muslim peers, are feeling the repercussions of staying at home during this sacred month.
“This year it is different for sure. A major part of this month is tarawih, which is when you pray an additional 20 times for the Prophet and for God. Tarawih is usually done in the mosque, with 50 or 100 people. The more people you pray with the more spiritual rewards you will receive, so that part is very different,” said Wahidi.
Interacting with the community is a crucial part of Ramadan, yet because of the federal stay-at-home orders and provincial restrictions, serving the community has proven difficult from afar, “This month is supposed to be of giving, of charity, of community and of togetherness. It is very hard when we are not allowed to see each other,” said Wahidi.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged these grand-scale difficulties in an address on April 23 when he recommended Muslims to stay at home. “So observe Ramadan while staying home this year. Instead of having iftar with friends or at the mosque or community centre, get together with them online,” said Trudeau.
Trudeau highlighted the valiant contributions Muslims have made to Canada during Ramadan, even under difficult circumstances, “Muslim Canadians have always made our country a better, stronger place and this month will be no exception. From food donations to helping seniors with grocery deliveries, organizations like the Canadian Muslim Response Network have already stepped up to help. […] I want to recognize all of our essential workers who are taking care of us even while fasting,” said Trudeau.
In addition to giving back to the community, Ramadan is a time of rich spiritualism for the Muslim community. “I really like [that] everyone has the same mindset during this time, no one is distracted and everyone’s focus is our religion. It is very motivating for me […] when you are in a house full of people reminding you to pray, read the Quran and fast, it encourages me to get back to my religion,” said Wahidi.
Ramadan concludes with Eid al-Fitr on May 23, a celebration that ends Muslim’s fast and marks the beginning of the next Lunar month. Typical celebrations include special prayers, feasts and gatherings among friends and families. With Premier Doug Ford’s recent announcement extending the Emergency Orders until June 2, the conclusion of Ramadan will also be affected by COVID-19.
“[For example] if I were in St. Catharines [for Eid al-Fitr], all of St. Catharines would go to one mosque. The more people you pray with the more rewards you get, so we like to get together when we pray. In the morning [on Eid al-Fitr] you go and you pray at your family members’ and close friends’ houses, so that can’t happen either,” said Wahidi.
Wahidi is optimistic that Muslim families will adapt to the unprecedented circumstances during Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr. Video calling among friends and family may be a viable alternative to bring a sense of community to Muslims who are unable to gather.
“The closest thing we could do to [the traditional celebration] would be Skype. […] The religion and the culture are connected to community and connectedness,” said Wahidi.
Despite the necessary adaptations and altered celebrations this year, Wahidi is confident that her faith community will persevere.
“Even though we are not allowed to [celebrate traditionally], I know that we are all going to make it work. It is going to be a tough time, but our community and our religion is strong enough to get through this,” said Wahidi.