Coronavirus and Ramadan
As we deal with Coronavirus and Ramadan, we need to understand the importance of Islamic history, follow our societal guidelines, and plan wisely, says Imam Daayiee Abdullah.
So far, the year 2020 has been a very, very stressful time. This means clearly that Ramadan 2020 is also very stressful for Muslims worldwide. Traditionally, Ramadan is a time of reflection, reviewing the past year.
We look at the lessons learned throughout our lives. For instance, we look at the failures and successes, and for most, one attempts to see the growth. We strive for growth in spiritual life, as well as try to make improvements in other areas of life such as careers and familial relationships.
As I look back on my life, I look at my experiences from childhood through adulthood and now into my senior years. I can look back and see how education has been an essential aspect of my life. I am not just talking about going to educational institutions of higher learning, it also includes the knowledge that life has given me thus far.
For me, having the experience of living within diverse cultures, both domestically and internationally, my life has taught valuable lessons. For example, that humankind, with all of its diversity and exterior distinctions and interior complexities, grows when we consider what makes us one versus our differences.
Therefore, Ramadan again brings these factors to the forefront as we think about our current situation facing the coronavirus pandemic.
Of course, Muslims worldwide are divided. The division is not unlike the propensity to disagree on whether one should utilize traditional visual sightings of the new moon or depending upon scientific astrological methodologies.
Some Muslims, for example, demand that the believers follow traditional collective gatherings for prayers, despite the warnings about that during this period. They ignore the scientific facts that this virus/illness is no respecter of our faith or other human factors that distinguish us from one another.
On the other hand, of course, there are Muslims that take into full consideration the current situation of the pandemic. For instance, these Muslims encourage Muslims to socially distance themselves — basically, avoid collective prayers — and pray as they would during their daily lives.
For instance, Islamic scholars with a clear understanding of Islamic history are discouraging gathering. They understand that during the time of Prophet Mohammad’s life, Muslims would not ignore the potentially devastating effects of geographic regions where a pandemic existed. Ultimately, saving life superseded tradition where the tradition would lead to loss of life.
Thinking of Solutions
It is my opinion, therefore, that Muslims must consider that this pandemic is global. Our solution must take into consideration how each Muslim’s religious, cultural expression will unfold during this Ramadan season.
First and foremost, Muslims should not encourage other Muslims to bring harm to themselves, their families, and their extended communities. This means that the collective of Muslims should pray individually or in small groups of less than 10 people to make sure those who may be exposed to the virus are limited.
Of course, my opinion inculcates factors such as the virus being part of the unknown. Being insidiously silent in this transmission, one may not know they are infected until days or weeks later.
So, what does this mean? It means that one could follow the majority of Ramadan practices without including collective prayers.
Intention for Ramadan
I also consider that we should be setting our intentions this week for our Ramadan fast.
What do you want out of your Ramadan?
I have looked at three things that will help me to the best of my ability to keep myself safe as I go through this fast.
For example, I’m looking at planning and scheduling. Similarly, advance preparation in smoothing out the potential “course corrections” that make my Ramadan what I want it to be.
I want my Ramadan to be one that strengthens me. That is, I want to gain the spiritual strength of this holy month.
Likewise, I want it to be one that allows me to fulfill my obligation. I want to be able to do what I can to follow the spirit of what is required.
Finally, I want it to keep my mind and heart open to those special moments that delight and nurture the soul.
Planning my needs for the month means that I must do my shopping in advance. So, planning allows me to make sure that I can procure certain goods that I would need for the month.
Likewise, looking at what I would need periodically. For instance, looking at perishable items. As a result, this would allow me to prepare my meals and to care for myself and others.
It is important to schedule not only my prayer times, but also time for my errands and personal maintenance. For instance, caring for my living space, fulfilling any medical or business needs, and not forgetting that I will make my zakat donation to my community in advance.
As I consider these things necessary to schedule in advance, I alleviate some of the stress and provide myself additional time in prayer and reflection.
Preparation is setting aside the time so that I am not rushed to accomplish things that I have planned and scheduled in advance.
Meanwhile, I plan to utilize this time to enjoy this solicitude and inner calm that. I believe it will enhance my peaceful existence during this period of physical isolation.
It is important to use technology, as it can help you meet some of the personal and familial needs.
Of course, I do understand that there are some places where many people do not have access to modern technology.
Meanwhile, those who do can still take time to connect with their friends, family, and extended communities. For instance, they can do that through collective online prayers, meetings, and social entertainment.
Because our global communities are called to increase attention in responding to this pandemic, it is important to use technology. For example, we learn ways that are smart, safe, and lessening the possibility of harming our communities both physically and psychologically.
So, use of technology will help us to be connected to families and society at large.
Here are some rules that I have used to guide and remind me that I must use good judgment during this pandemic.
RULE 1: Use your brains that Allah gave you. Allah is not your private genie granting you wishes at your command. Numerous Islamic institutions are in agreement that utilizing self-isolation and closing down collective prayers, particularly Friday prayers, is the best of actions to keep our communities safe.
RULE 2: Pray at home. Do not congregate in groups. Limit family gatherings to 10 people or less, while practicing physical distancing in close quarters. Do not go on social visits to people’s homes that you know are infected. One can be helpful in many ways, but do not put oneself in danger of contracting the virus. Additionally, one must remember an important fact, should you have members that fall into the high-risk categories, they should not participate in these gatherings.
RULE 3: Make sure your elderly family members are cared for and looked after daily. And, if possible, check-in with them several times a day to make sure they have their necessities met, they have their medications, and food needs supplied and limit their access to younger people and children to prevent transmission of the virus.
RULE 4: Ask your local mosque leaders to invest in audiovisual equipment and utilize the Internet to broadcast/host “tawareeh” prayer sessions. They could have a few people participate in the session. However, it is essential to maintain fewer than 10 people at these sessions, including the person recording the prayer.
RULE 5: A person/family can give their zakat offering to the local mosque and/or other organizations by sending in your donation via mail, bank transfer, mobile app or other forms of monetary exchange.
RULE 6: Once there is an all-clear notice, then we can return to prayers at the mosque for group gatherings.
RULE 7: Remember Rule 1.
Ramadan is definitely a time to reflect.
As we reflect, spend time thinking about the things that one could have done better.
I am hopeful we will look for those solutions to help us improve ourselves, our relationships with others, and our creator.
I wish a happy Ramadan season to one and all, and may Allah continue to guide and bless us all.
Imam Daayiee Abdullah is an American man who converted to Islam in China in the 1980s. He has lived in Jordan, Syria, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The Imam has appeared on major media networks worldwide, on behalf of LGBT Muslims. Imam Daayiee is currently the Executive Director of MECCA Institute, a progressive Islamic institute with a think tank and a school.