Arabic terms and their definitions can be found at the end of the article.
Ramadan is the most blessed month of the year. Our Ummah spends the entire month fasting, worshiping, doing extra good deeds, and gathering together in homes, community centers, and masajid for iftar, taraweeh prayers, and i’tikaf.
Due to the ongoing pandemic caused by the outbreak of COVID-19, this Ramadan will be different. Muslims will likely observe Ramadan entirely in their homes. Many Muslim families will wake up for suhoor together, pray together, recite Quran, or at a bare minimum, have iftar together. While this is different from the norm of social gatherings and nights at the masjid, it is still an opportunity to spend Ramadan with people who share the same beliefs. Many converts don’t have this luxury.
Personally, Ramadan for me will mean waking up for suhoor, creeping down to the kitchen, and getting water and whatever light food makes the least amount of noise. During every salah I go into my room, lock the door, and recite quietly as to not make my family uncomfortable. I will listen to the Quran only when I have headphones handy. I will cook my family dinner around 4, and then set my dinner aside to eat by myself after Maghreb. After Isha, I will pray taraweeh quietely by myself, and I will likely spend the entirety of Ramadan without coming into physical contact with another Muslim.
This will be my 6th Ramadan, and because of the generosity, love, and mercy of Allah I have never spent more than 50% of any Ramadan inside of my home. Even I will have to adjust. I will not lie to myself and say that this is going to be easy for me, but I understand that if all of the social aspects of Ramadan are taken away, the virtue, reward, and observance of Ramadan is not reduced in any capacity.
As with all trials, we can find comfort and guidance from the Quran and Sunnah. To navigate how we will make the best of Ramadan in isolation, we have to go back to the original command we were given; in Surah Al Baqarah ayah 183, Allah Says,“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun (the pious).”
Allah then says, “The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Quran, a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the guidance and the criterion (between right and wrong). So whoever of you sights (the crescent on the first night of) the month (of Ramadan), he must fast that month, and whoever is ill or on a journey, the same number (of days which one did not fast must be made up) from other days. Allah intends for you ease, and He does not want to make things difficult for you. (He wants that you) must complete the same number (of days), and that you must magnify Allah for having guided you so that you may be grateful to Him,”(1:185).
Ramadan is first and foremost about doing what Allah has asked of us; He gave us clear guidelines, and in doing so we have the opportunity to gain piety and increase our gratitude.
Then, I researched a hadith to find guidance from the actions of Prophet Muhammed (pbuh).
“Abdullah ibn `Amr reported that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, Fasting and the Qur’an will intercede on behalf of Allah’s servant on the Day of Judgment: Fasting will say, “O my Lord! I prevented him from food and desires during the day, so accept my intercession for him.” And the Qur’an will say, “O my Lord! I prevented him from sleeping by night, so accept my intercession for him.” The intercession of both will thus be accepted.(Ahmad and authenticated by Al-Albani)
Fasting opens up an opportunity to be rewarded immensely and forgiven for past sins, and this is also shown in a number of other ayat and hadith that talk about the virtues and rewards of fasting Ramadan.
One thing that all of them have in common is that social gathering isn’t at the center of any of them. This month is an opportunity for us to spiritually put in work, perform good deeds for ourselves, and others, in whatever capacity social distancing allows, and to worship our Creator. Taraweeh at the masjid is an amazing feeling, but so is standing in prayer in the comfort of your home, pouring your heart out in sujood and begging Allah for His forgiveness, His help, and His reward.
In a hadith it is narrated that, Abu Sa’id al-Khudri reported: “The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The entire earth has been made a place of prayer, except for graveyards and washrooms”(Sunan al-Tirmidhī 317).
Our homes, and for those that are essential workers, our places of employment are all places of prayer.
It’s okay to mourn the warm feelings of being with friends and family during Ramadan, it’s okay to feel the ache of loneliness, and it’s okay to feel a little nervous heading into this Ramadan, but know that Allah is with us. There is benefit and important lessons to learn from making the most of this month in isolation; for those that have Muslim family with them, this is an opportunity to worship together and follow the Prophetic example of strengthening family ties. For those Muslims living alone or without Muslim family this is an opportunity to increase reliance on Allah and gain the reward of being patient and steadfast. And we are reminded that no calamity or trial befalls us without the expiation of sins.
Muslim (2572) narrated that ‘Aa’ishah said: I heard the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) say: “There is nothing that befalls a believer, not even a thorn that pricks him, but Allaah will record a hasanah (good deed) for him thereby, or erase from him a sin.”
I believe that this Ramadan will be a blessing and a source of increased iman if we open ourselves up to the changes it will bring. May Allah forgive our sins, answer our duaa, and reward us for our efforts in this life and the next.
Definitions of Arabic words used
ummah = The whole community of Islam or the ideal society god creates from those who practice and submit to Islam.
masjid/masajid (plural) =Arabic word translated as mosque.
hadith = A collection of Muhammad’s sayings and deeds, known as the Traditions, which is commonly taught as a part of Islamic theology. Hadiths are explanations and interpretations of Muhammad’s living example.
iftar = the meal eaten by Muslims after sunset during Ramadan.
taraweeh= a prayer that is one of the unique specialties of Ramadan nights; for the whole month, Muslims line up at night to observe a number of optional rak`at and listen to and reflect on the recitation of the Qur’an. It is a very blessed and highly spiritual experience.
i’tikaf = means to be in isolation in a Masjid or at home with the intention of solely dedicating your time to the worship of Allah
suhoor = the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before fasting
salah = Worship in the form of ritual prayer that is repeated five times daily.
sujood = is the act of prostrating in prayer
About the Author
Sienna is a Project Assistant at the Office of Professional Development at NCSU. She graduated from NC State University with a degree in International Studies. Her passions lie in Middle Eastern Studies, which was her focus area during her undergraduate studies. She hopes to continue her studies at the graduate level, and go into teaching and research that accurately, and fairly represents the Middle East and challenges preconceived notions.
Sienna converted to Islam over 5 years ago, and hopes that sharing her experiences will be beneficial to others. She is passionate about supporting her community and giving back. As such, she is actively involved with several Muslim-led organizations in the Triangle.