Many of our Muslim friends and neighbours are about to enter a very important time in their religious calendar – the time of fasting known as Ramadan. As many of us are aware, this is one of the 5 pillars of the faith, an essential way of expressing their devotion to God through the discipline of refraining from water and food from sunrise to sunset over a period of 30 days.
This will be a different kind of Ramadan though – one which is done entirely from the home. Some rituals which are a key part of Ramadan will be missing. This includes praying in the mosque and the collective act of worship demonstrated by that, as well as the social interaction enjoyed over the ‘Iftar meal’ at sunset when the fast is broken. I have had the pleasure of being at a number of Iftar meals, have sat on the floor in people’s guest room, breaking the fast with dates (in the tradition of prophet Muhammad) and enjoying the benefits of South Asian hospitality.
According to the Manager of Makki Mosque in Manchester
“The hardest part for us will be the social aspects. Each year we take part in gatherings for breaking the fast meals with friends, family and the wider community. These will be in our own homes this year. We often share food with friends and neighbours. This will continue but with carefully observing social distancing and ensuring ‘no-contact’ drop-offs.”
One of the biggest challenges might be having to spend the traditional Eid celebration which comes at the end of the 30 days of fasting, with immediate family only. Many of my Muslim friends go in and out of each other’s homes during this time giving and receiving food as well as gathering to eat in large groups with the wider family that is valued so highly in the Pakistani tradition.
In a similar way to Christians working out how to respond to the current climate, Muslims have been urged to see this as time of self-reflection, a time to show love to those in the community and to demonstrate godly qualities during a time of testing.
This could also be an opportunity for us to reach out to our Muslim friends and neighbours. Let’s send messages of support and love for them and show them that we are aware it’s their fasting month and that it might be strange and difficult for them. Why not tell them that you are praying for them and ask for any particular requests? My Muslim friends always respond positively to this! We can also ask how they are doing and be open and honest about our own struggles. It’s an opportunity to talk about faith in the light of what’s happening in the world. It’s a great way to show the love of Jesus.