Ramadan, which begins on Thursday evening, is usually celebrated with fasting, prayers, spiritual reflection, and meeting others at the end of each day for dinner.
But the coronavirus pandemic, which has turned so many societal and sacred norms upside down, will limit the communal aspects of months of observance.
Even so, imams from southern Nevada say that despite orders at home and closed mosques, Ramadan still has classes.
Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, runs from Thursday until sunset on May 23rd. Muslims believe that Islamic scriptures, the Koran, were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during Ramadan. So during the month, Muslims do not drink or eat between sunrise and sunset every day.
Muslims also renounce physical relationships and negative behaviors, and engage in charitable acts during Ramadan. Shamsuddin Waheed, Imam at Masjid Ibrahim, said that some Muslims also avoid radio, television, and other secular distractions and read the entire Quran throughout the month in order to “gain greater awareness of God’s presence.”
Fateen Seifullah, Imam at Masjid As-Sabur, calls Ramadan “spiritually like a new start. Its primary goal is that individuals become spiritually enriched and become aware of things they may have neglected over the year, including the needs of others. “
“Because we fast, we can identify with those who can go without food all year round, and (fasting) basically makes us more appreciative of what God has given us,” Seifullah added.
While fasting, prayer and spiritual renewal remain key elements of Ramadan this year, mosques are closed to public prayer and communal meals at the end of the fast in mosques have been canceled. These social and cultural elements of Ramadan are “powerful,” said Seifullah.
“You really do go (to mosques) to be with other people who do what you do,” he said, and some are likely to find their absence this year “challenging and in some ways heartbreaking”.
However, the inability to follow some traditional practices this year means “getting people to focus more on the main reason in the first place,” Waheed said.
“I feel that a lot of the things we normally do, the secondary things, are now being removed so we have to focus on the primary goal,” Waheed said.
The pandemic has also “made people realize the value of their spirituality,” Waheed said. “A perfect example is the mosque itself. So many people have called and left messages that they neglect to get to the mosque and are eager to get us to reopen. It used to be something they didn’t know was important in their own life. “
The health crisis has other lessons to offer in Ramadan.
“I think we could all be reminded of how fragile life is,” said Seifullah. “We should remember how easily things can be taken away from us and how grateful we should be.
“This time of year requires us to be patient and start over and connect with God,” he said. “This time of separation from people gives us the opportunity to rediscover God for ourselves.”
Contact John Przybys at [email protected] or 702-383-0280. Follow @JJPrzybys on Twitter.