Ramadan for me has always been a beautiful time of the year that brings us all joy. For us, whenever we are home in Michigan, it is basically like Thanksgiving holiday everyday for a MONTH. How amazing is that? Food, parties, gathering with friends and family almost every evening, seeing everyone at the mosque for nightly prayers; it is so much community. Needless to say, this Ramadan during the world wide COVID-19 Pandemic, this Ramadan of 2020, during a quarantine is immensely unique and can feel depressing and lonely. Except, Ramadan is not truly about community and all these social gatherings. This Ramadan in isolation presents some special opportunities.
Ramadan is actually not about the social gatherings. Contrary to what we may feel, this isolation imposed on us has many benefits.
Ramadan is not all about community
Yes, it is devastatingly sad to be away from family and community during a time that is vastly social for many, but it certainly is not a social time for everyone! Moreover, for those who tend to be alone during Ramadan, they may feel like their Ramadan is incomplete if they are missing the community aspect, and that is not true. I had many years when we moved around and I was all alone without friends or family nearby, in a strange new town, without a community center to visit, and a husband mostly away working overnight calls at the hospital. My fasting and prayer was dependent on my disciplined routine, and it was a challenge I was not used to. Definitely, the isolation can be hard and make us nostalgic for better times and memories with family and friends. But this isolation is a blessing in many ways.
I found this article to be very concise and helpful to understand the importance of quarantine, from a Prophetic perspective. The emphasis our religion places on hygiene, caring for the community at large, and protecting our health is well stated in this piece. As we place ourselves in isolation during the shelter at home order, the first stories and examples that come to my mind are those of the Prophet, peace and blessings upon him, when he would go to the cave of Hiraa to reflect and contemplate life.
Why Muslims Fast
Ramadan is an important time for spirituality, refocusing our goals, and cleansing ourselves in the heart to become closer to God. We fast purely as an act of submission. God’s command for us to fast is a mercy on mankind, as it allows us to detach from the frivolousness of dunya (worldly materials and inclinations) and detach from following our desires. In Ramadan as we fast, not just from food and water, but from any sort of intimacy and sensual pleasures, we strengthen our ability to resist and refrain. This struggle and sacrifice makes us stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually as we go through our daily lives compounded with a complex mixture of time constraints, distractions, endless social obligations, and school and work commitments all of which can keep us from focusing on purifying our inner selves (this is called the nafs in Islam). This is why our isolation as we shelter at home is a blessing and opportunity.
God’s command for us to fast is a mercy on mankind, as it allows us to detach from the frivolousness of dunya and detach from following our desires. This is why our isolation as we shelter at home is a blessing and opportunity.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ use to go to the cave of Hiraa to separate himself from the endless ills of the society around him, to meditate and connect with the creator, and to contemplate and reflect on the majesty of all of God’s creation. It was in this state, that the Rasul ﷺ received revelation of the Quran. It was during this month of Ramadan that the Prophet received revelation. Ramadan is the month of Quran. As Muslims strive to read as much of the Quran as they can and fast for the sake of Allah, as an ultimate act of submission, we practice the ability to delay gratification, restrain from desires, and aim to reach a point of tazkiyya, which is purifying of the nafs. These are all amazing experiences, and worthy goals.
What a blessing it is to be able to go through these experiences in an isolation that is essentially keeping us away from many of the social distractions that the Rasul ﷺ himself sought to escape from in order to meditate and reach a spiritual, contemplative state. We have the unique opportunity to detach from all outside distractions and social connections so that we can focus on ourselves. Travel plans, most work events, and other social commitments have all vaporized, freeing us from an endless cycle of delaying ourselves the quietude to isolate and contemplate. In no other point of our lives has this been possible, and also experienced by the entire world at the same time. This is an incredible opportunity to practice the reflective states to pray, perform remembrance of Allah, and read Quran.
We have the unique opportunity to detach from any outside distractions and social connections so that we can focus on ourselves.
We should not depend on the masjid programming or a leader to guide us through our taqwa at all times, and through this experience, through our own actions we may strive to be self motivated and devoted to the Quran and salah in our own efforts. This means establishing a productive routine and schedule for ourselves and our families. This is the perfect time to focus on a schedule for your family and home life that prioritizes your connection with Allah.
So yes, while this COVID-19 pandemic is a trying time for us all, it is also a time for us to reflect on all the things we have always taken for granted, and see the gift in being able to heal and grow in the absence of all the mindless and heartless distractions that have unfortunately consumed our society. We will come together again as a community after this time passes and we will all be better and renewed, Inshallah.
For ideas on how to engage young children and motivate them to be excited about this blessed month, see my other post Ramadan Fun for Kids.