Remaining True To The Spirit Of Ramadan
The year 2020 will perhaps be remembered as the year that changed everything. More than half of the global population are experiencing a lockdown in one form or another due to COVID-19. Even after the easing of the lockdowns, a “new normal” will emerge that will see people practicing social distancing, avoiding crowds, and looking after personal hygiene.
The holy month of Ramadan is now upon us. For Muslims, what would this so-called “new normal” mean when celebrating the month of Ramadan? Many Muslims would regard the rituals in the month of Ramadan as a form of madrasah or school to learn, unlearn and relearn certain habits. Good habits which may be new to some can be learned during Ramadan, old bad habits can be unlearned, while other habits which are good but seldom done can be relearned.
Perhaps the COVID-19 pandemic has presented Muslims with this golden opportunity to learn, unlearn and relearn a number of things which may have been taken for granted all this while. We have been going through the month of Ramadan all throughout our lives with more or less the same “syllabus.” Now with COVID-19, we are presented a new syllabus for the holy month.
Some core practices remain the same in Ramadan, one of which is fasting. The act of fasting is synonymous with the month of Ramadan. As such, in spite of the pandemic, all Muslims will continue to fast, much like previous years. This is because fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the pillars of Islam which must be performed.
Another act of worship synonymous with the holy month is the act of performing the optional Tarawih prayer after the compulsory Isyak prayer. All this while, we are used to performing Tarawih in a jamaah (congregation) at a masjid or surau. Now however, we have no choice but to adjust accordingly. Tarawih can still be done in a congregation, but it should only be performed at our homes with our family members.
This is an opportunity for the head of the family to learn to be the imam of the prayer. While Tarawih is akin to many optional prayers in Islam, it is still something that needs familiarization for many. Hence, the head of the household should step up to take the lead.
Similarly, for those who are living on their own, Tarawih can still be performed individually. While in the past, we may be accustomed to just becoming the ma’mum (follower) in a prayer performed in a jamaah, but in light of COVID-19, we need to be able to perform this prayer on our own. Again, this will be a learning process for many.
Another aspect of the month of Ramadan, although not directly related to religious rituals, is the Ramadan bazaar. In the past, Ramadan bazaars have become a source of income for many people. It is also a food haven for those looking for iftar (breaking of fast) dishes.
The reality for this year however dictates that there will not be any Ramadan bazaar in the physical sense. As such, we have to unlearn the habit of frequenting Ramadan bazaars and relearn a new skill that is, either buying dishes for iftar online and have them delivered to our homes, or simply cook the dishes ourselves.
Either way, what is equally important is for us to learn to avoid food wastage during Ramadan. Buy or cook only what is needed for consumption. Any form of wastage, what more food wastage, is much abhorred in Islam.
Ramadan is also known as the month of the Quran. In previous years, people would carry out tadarus (act of reciting the Quran together) with other members of the congregation usually at a masjid or surau. With the pandemic, does it mean that we cannot perform the tadarus?
Most definitely, tadarus can continue. As with the Tarawih prayer, we can continue to perform tadarus of the Quran with our family members, and for many, this will be a new skill that needs to be learned.
On top of this, technology can also be a useful aid for online tadarus. This is something that can be learned if we want to carry out online tadarus with members of our congregation by using softwares and apps normally used for online meetings. The difference being, instead of congregating in a masjid or surau for tadarus, we are congregating online.
Many people look forward to Ramadan because it presents them with the opportunity to carry out acts of worship during the last part of the night, known as qiam al-layl. Some would take the opportunity to perform the qiam al-layl at a masjid.
However, this is no longer possible due to COVID-19, but it does not mean that the act of qiam al-layl could no longer be performed. We can adjust accordingly by performing qiam al-layl at home with our family members. Again, this adjustment requires some sort of learning and relearning process on the part of the doer.
Charity is also equally synonymous with Ramadan. The pandemic should not be looked as an excuse to stop doing charity. Instead, the pandemic has presented us with more opportunities to help others in need.
We can always contribute to Ramadan baskets which are used to help the needy as well as the frontliners. We can channel funds to NGO’s performing charitable deeds during Ramadan. Or at the very least, we can share our iftar dishes with our neighbours during this holy month. Charity does not stop with COVID-19.
Neither can COVID-19 truly affect Ramadan. What is needed is just adjustments on the part of believers. As mentioned, Ramadan is a madrasah where we can become better Muslims at the end of the holy month. The adjustments that we make in Ramadan is a learning process that can increase our piety to Allah. In truth, the spirit of the holy month is not diminished under the pressure of the pandemic. On the contrary, the pandemic has actually presented Muslims with a greater opportunity to further showcase the true beauty of the spirit of Ramadan, and to come out