A Ramadan like no other: Making the most of the blessed month during a pandemic

24th Apr 2020
A Ramadan like no other: Making the most of the blessed month during a pandemic

(Credit: Tumisu/Pixabay)

Dr Abdul Bari

The exponential growth in infection rates and ensuing deaths across the world from the coronavirus pandemic is unrelenting with the fear and lockdown creating all but a siege mentality.

No one can say with certainty how long this may continue, how many may perish, and what the world will look like in the aftermath. A pandemic of this nature tells us that humans are not the masters of the world as some would believe. If nothing else, this global crisis is a wakeup call for humanity.

A mega calamity like this brings out both the best and worst in human nature. The desperate attempt to keep the virus at bay and save lives has brought people together in solidarity. Governments, even those led by right-wing or authoritarian populist leaders, have introduced otherwise unthinkable sums of money to support businesses, support workers and protect the economy.

On a human level, the lockdown has provoked a sense of togetherness, even if virtually, amongst family and society. Care for the vulnerable, elderly and poor are higher on the agenda and the collective well-being of all is being valued. Sadly, the crisis has also laid bare the lack of a globally coordinated moral or political leadership.

The effects of the ‘my country first’ attitude has been further exposed and it is feared that displaced people such as the Rohingya, indigenous communities and the poor will be disproportionately impacted.

How can Ramadan help uplift community spirit?

In these extraordinary times, the month of Ramadan will bring mixed feelings to Muslims. We will painfully miss important communal practices such as performing the night prayer (Tarawih) in a congregation. But it would be helpful to remember that it was during this month of blessings when the Qur’an was revealed (Al-Qur’an 2:185) to our Prophet (peace be upon him) whilst he was in isolation in the cave of Mount Hira. The extended quieter time, which the lockdown affords us also provide unique opportunities for contemplation, self-introspection, personal reappraisal and renewal so that we can become more connected with our Lord and His Book.

Life in this world is an opportunity and test to become the stewards of Allah. The test can come in various ways, as mentioned in the Qur’an. “And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.” (Al-Qur’an 2:155). The way to overcome all these tests is through patience, fortitude and reliance on our Lord.

Ramadan comes as a special blessing as the whole purpose of fasting is to attain God-consciousness (Al-Qur’an 2:183). A month-long dawn-to-dusk fasting helps us burn our ego through the crucible of abstinence from otherwise permissible actions such as eating and drinking or keeping away from ill thoughts and evil actions to strengthen our self-control.

Fasting reminds us to appreciate the innumerable blessings that our Creator has bestowed on us. These gifts, which we often take for granted, become more apparent to us in these testing times.

Compassion & empathy towards fellow humans

Ramadan teaches us the ethos of sharing, generosity and sacrifice for others. We strive to make the utmost efforts for our salvation as well as intensify our efforts to help others around us in our neighbourhood and communities. To make the most of this time, we should endeavour to have a short and medium-term personal plan with a list of “dos and don’ts” and do not end up wasting all our time.

We must follow the guidelines of medical experts and Government advice. We may believe that we are less at risk but flouting these rules can not only harm us, but others around us, including those who are most vulnerable such as elderly parents and grandparents. We should remember the health professionals and others at the forefront are risking their lives to protect us and we all have our parts to play.

With less time spent on travelling and earning, it means more time is now available for our wellbeing, family members and the wider community.

It is vital we renew and rekindle our relationships with each other and use this time to rebuild bridges that may have crumbled in the rat-race of life. We should spend more time with our children, not only to keep them busy, but also raise them with knowledge and character (Akhlaq) as good human beings.

As in every Ramadan, when the floodgates of generosity amongst Muslims open, we should extend our hands even further to help those who are in desperate need especially those who are more vulnerable as a result of this crisis

Long-term confinement at home may naturally create some irritation, tension and frustration within family members. It is essential we remain calm and control our tongues, as our Prophet (peace be upon him) said, “Whoever does not give up telling lies and evil deeds and speaking bad words to others, Allah isn’t in need of his abstinence from food and drink (fasting).” (al-Bukhārī)

Overuse and misuse of social media sadly lessened our real-world interaction with one another in modern life. It is time we come to our senses and use the same social media to gain knowledge from authentic sources and improve connections with our near and dear ones.

Let’s pray that Allah protects us all, elevates our status with better human qualities and makes us a force for good to others. How wonderful it would be if we can come out of this crisis wiser than we were before!

 

Dr Abdul Bari
Educationalist, parenting consultant
& civic ctivist. Author on family & parenting, identity and civic engagement.

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