On behalf of Ramadan beginning, the Otter Cross Cultural Center held a virtual session with speakers Faizan Mumtaz and Maria Ahmad to provide a detailed explanation to what the Islamic practice comprises and how the current state of the pandemic impacts the tradition.
Ramadan is a holy month that consists of communal prayers, fasting, introspection and reading the Qur’an. “In the month of Ramadan, we have a chance to pause everything and break our bad habits while reinforcing our good ones,” Mumtaz said. “It’s a time of sacrifice.”
This is a period in which there is a heightened sense of community. However with social distancing intact, it presents bans on gatherings and mosques that have been subdued to closures.
Taraweeh, a prayer that follows the last evening prayer, is a communal event that usually occurs in the mosque. “It’s something to look forward to because the whole community is there and there’s events for every age group and every demographic,” Mumtaz said.
Although it is an individual act of worship, there is a sense of unity that is emphasized as people pray in congregation.
“This nightly prayer provided interaction with the community and with the people,” Mumtaz said. “Muslims will be looking for how they’re gonna supplement this and fill this gap in the month of Ramadan.”
In spite of the fact that it is still possible to virtually and remotely connect with people, the pandemic has created a looming sense of isolation.
“In theory, there’s a lot more time for solitude reflection and being more mindful of what we’re eating and how we’re spending that time,” Ahmad said. “There’s gonna be a lot of time when you get that draining feeling”
Isolation poses a particular obstacle between finding the equilibrium of solitude and community. “It’s hard to find this balance, since you don’t want to be so isolated and too focused on yourself that you’re disconnected from the community,” Mumtaz said.
Despite the limitations that social distancing has administered, translating the physical experiences and seeking out alternatives to sustain the tradition are what’s entailed for the Muslim community.
“Being a practicing Muslim is always evolving,” Ahmad said. Though the physical communal aspects are absent, it does not necessitate for the community to grow weak.