We have seen across the globe celebrations such as birthdays and weddings either being cancelled entirely or reimagined in the face of social restrictions and Ramadan is no different!
Ramadan for the most vulnerable
This year’s Ramadan commenced on the 24th of April. A month of abstention from food and water, personal and spiritual reflection, and a time where families come together to celebrate with great feasts during dusk. However, in the light of the global pandemic within the Muslim community, it has been debated as to whether fasting should be compulsory for all. With many replacing their normal balanced diets in favour of high fat, high salt and low micro-nutrient diets at this time, this lack of imbalance and adequate nutrition causes a weaker immune system adding extra stress to those most vulnerable people within the community. The advice that has been given as a result is to take each case on an individual basis as for some this may have detrimental consequences on their health.
A new way of doing things
For those within the community who can take part in Ramadan this year, there have been some major adaptions across the globe in how this is imagined. In order to adhere with current government advise Mosques have either closed entirely or shut their doors for evening prayer, when most people would likely attend.
Families have stopped traditional large gatherings at dusk to feast and have moved to more intimate meals at sundown. Smaller meals have been made in place of much larger feasts, illustrative of the changes we have seen in the way we shop, and purchase food coupled with a higher social awareness of the amount of food we purchase during this time of uncertainty.
As a result, for many the spirit of this holy month has been taken away which has caused it to feel flat in comparison to previous years. The lack of contact with family members and time that would have been spent bonding has been replaced with young people like me spending their time as they would do normally, watching shows on Netflix or gaming for example. Where we would look forward to seeing our favourite wider family members on a daily basis, we now face the stark contrast of Ramadan under the light of lockdown.
Bringing us closer together
From a personal perspective, I can both see and feel the effects of the pandemic on these traditions. This is a time where my whole family takes turns to produce these great feasts. On the first day of Ramadan the whole clan gathers at my grandmother’s house where we all pack in and enjoy each other’s company until dusk, where most people will eat until comatose, take a nap in any corner of the room and then continue the social event until the early hours. Every household within the family rotates multiple times a week in hosting these events and by the end of the month everyone is so much closer as a family unit.
This year, we have decided to stay at home to reduce the chance of infection, keeping the elderly and most young safe. I have personally continued to see my extended family through facetime at these mealtimes, as it brings a sense of normalcy to our lives. Although for me it has meant not seeing those wider family members as I would do normally what it has meant is that me and my immediate family have grown even closer together. We have once again returned to eating at the table, something we haven’t done in years!
The antipode of Ramadan does seem to be what we have labelled lockdown. Whilst there are changes to the way we are able to practice Ramadan this year, many of which we have undoubtedly missed, it has given us time to reflect on what is most important to us and to strengthen those bonda with those that we live with. We will likely not see a Ramadan like this again however there will be experiences we can take from this that will remain for years to come.