The month of Ramadan (April 24th) comes during exceptional circumstances which have forced Muslims to do away with some of their most valued traditions of congregational prayers and breaking of the fast with the community.
On Saturday, April 25, the Muslims in Lehigh Valley will join their 1.6 billion brethren worldwide in observing the fast of the month of Ramadan. The month of Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, and Muslims are commanded by God, in the Qur’an, to fast during this time.
Ramadan is one of the most revered months of the year and it was in this month that the first verse of the Quran was revealed. Muslims believe that through fasting, they are able to strengthen their relationship with God, practice self-discipline, self-control, encourage charity (Zakat) and empathize with the less fortunate.
Islamic month is determined by the visual sighting of the crescent moon, also called the hilal. With the sighting of new Month of the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims rush to greet fellow Muslims with “Ramadan Mubarak” (Blessed Ramadan!). Many Islamic Center and homes are decorated to welcome the holy month by colorful lights, and ornaments, some shaped as crescents and stars, to mark the start of the month. However, this year there will be no handshakes, hugs and kisses (same gender).
The Corvid-19 pandemic has severely restricted religious life. However, the internet allows the faithful to pray at home. Video conferencing and live streaming have become a substitute for centuries-old traditions.
Just as at Christmas, a week before the holy month of Ramadan is a high season for shopping. Muslims are struggling to prepare for the holy month because of the lock-down. This year Ramadan will feel different, lacking its glamour, beauty, charm and spirituality. Just imagine if this pandemic and lock-down happened during the Christmas season.
Many Muslims are experiencing food shortages and price hikes for commodities such as flour, oil, dates and nuts, as shelves have been cleared of essentials. Some store owners have rationed the number of products each customer may purchase. Bakeries and restaurants will be impacted, as Ramadan is typically a key period of business for them.
This virtual congregation may continue during the month of Ramadan so that sermons, prayers and recitation of the Quran can be viewed from the safety of one’s home. Muslims will be able to go for daily congregation and Friday prayers to mosques after the lock-down is lifted. After due diligence, the management of the Islamic Center of the Lehigh Valley should open the center when the pandemic is over and not rely on the live stream. That would only reduce attendance and fundraising.