What is Ramadan?
For Muslims all around the world, Ramadan is a Holy Month where individuals reflect and are grateful for all that they have. As part of their reflections Muslims undertake various acts of worship, not just fasting. This month is devoted to worship which allows them to feel spiritually closer to Allah. Furthermore, Muslims use this time to feel compassion and help those in need.
Ramadan is a time for helping those less fortunate
Some key terms:
- Observer – Someone who takes part in Ramadan
- Fasting – Not drinking or eating throughout a certain period.
- Iftar - Refers to the evening meal when you break your fast.
- Sehri – Refers to the meal consumed in the early morning before your fast
- Taraweeh – Refers to an additional prayer which is performed at night during the month of Ramadan
What acts of worship are undertaken during Ramadan?
- Fasting – Is the most well-known part of Ramadan and consists of only eating or drinking from sunset to sunrise. The main reason for fasting is for Muslims to empathise with those less fortunate. Individuals should only take part in fasting if they are healthy and able to do so. Fasting therefore excludes those that take medication for illnesses, pregnant women and children. Females that are menstruating are also exempt and then expected to make up the days that they miss afterwards. During fasting, no smoking or sexual activity is allowed. If an individual accidentally breaks their fast by eating or drinking without realising, they are still allowed to continue their fasting until Iftar time.
- Taraweeh - Muslims pray 5 times a day (Fajr, Zuhur, Asr, Maghrib and Isha). During Ramadan, an additional congregational prayer takes place at night after Isha which is called Taraweeh. The Taraweeh lasts between 20-60 minutes and gives the person praying the opportunity to gain further spiritual reward from Allah. These motions of prayer can be beneficial to the person undertaking it in improving joint flexibility and muscle strength as it consists of repeated up and down movements.
- Giving to charity – Helping those less fortunate is an integral part of Muslim culture as it is one of the five pillars of Islam (Zakat). During Ramadan this is especially important as it is believed that your spiritual reward for donating is multiplied within this month. Charitable activities are said to cleanse and purify the soul which brings you ever closer to Allah.
- Engaging with family and community members through Iftar – Traditionally Iftar is a sociable time that is shared with extended family members and those in the community. It consists of gatherings and food donations in the streets to the public with the idea of collectively breaking fast together during Iftar.
How COVID-19 has impacted Ramadan?
This year, undoubtedly Ramadan will be different due to the pandemic outbreak. Therefore, traditional rituals will have to be altered to ensure that activities comply with public health regulations. Here are some top tips:
Stay connected digitally
- Pray at home (the majority of Mosque’s are closed)
- Break your fast with your household
- If you are self-isolating on your own, remember to always stay in contact with family and friends and break your fast digitally. This is important for your mental health and wellbeing and to stay connected with loved ones.
- Set up or join virtual Iftar’s groups on FaceTime or Zoom. This could be extended out to the community so that others feel welcomed.
- Donate to chosen charities online or over the phone.
- Join or access online livestreams from your local mosques for sermons and prayers.
- Drop off meals outside friends/families/neighbours houses so that you are still complying with social distancing measures.
- Lastly, if you are particularly vulnerable or feel unwell, fasting is not obligatory! In light of the pandemic, it is vital that you do not put your health at risk by fasting.
Remember to always put your health first
Cardiff Univeristy Islamic Society have an active Facebook Group which you can join and be part of an online community.
Cardiff University Chaplaincy supports staff and students in their religious observance and offers a confidential one-to-one listening and emotional support service for everyone regardless of their faith background. Find out more about the chaplaincy or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Muslim Council of Britain has also put together a great article that provides a number of tips from studying to virtual Iftars.