by LAUREN CODLING
BRITISH MUSLIMS have expressed the hope that Ramadan will be a time for communities to “reflect”, as lockdown measures are expected to be in place during most of the holy month, which begins later this week.
Following the outbreak of Covid-19, places of worship across the UK have shut to help halt the spread of the infection. The government has also banned public gatherings of anyone not from the same household.
Typically, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk, take part in community prayers, study the Qu’ran, and spend time with their loved ones.
However, current lockdown measures mean that they will have to change the way they mark Ramadan, one of the most significant periods of the faith.
Shabana Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham, Ladywood, said she hoped the “spirit of community” could overcome any challenges over the month.
“We are still able to talk to one another, be in contact and we can maintain some of our group activities in digital ways so that the connection with God can still be built and fostered during this Ramadan, even if it has a very different shape,” she told Eastern Eye on Monday (20).
Fellow Labour MP Rushanara Ali admitted Ramadan would be “particularly difficult” as Muslims would be unable to celebrate with loved ones in the usual way.
However, Ali said she has been “delighted” to see so many people from the British Muslim community helping those in need. “I also commend the efforts of imams and mosques who are continuing to provide spiritual guidance virtually,” Ali, the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, told Eastern Eye. “I hope people are able to take some comfort and solace from this.
“I hope we will be able to celebrate together soon and wish everyone a Ramadan Mubarak.”
Although Mahmood also admitted the community atmosphere would “be missed” by many, she was pleased to see people in her constituency come together in other “innovative ways”.
People have been conducting religious prayer sessions on YouTube and there have been reports of Zoom conference calls where people prayed together, she noted. “People are finding new ways around the problem,” said Mahmood, who is isolating with her family in Birmingham.
Author Shelina Janmohamed, who is based in northwest London, believes the lockdown measures have given the Muslim community an opportunity to focus on the true values of the holy month.
“Ramadan is all about giving up what you love and feeling a sense of deprivation and loss and understanding the plight of others,” she told Eastern Eye. “This is a chance to reflect on what Ramadan is about and what we may have lost in the rightful delights of social gatherings and togetherness.
“This will be a different perspective on it that we haven’t had before and probably won’t have again.”.
Yasmeen Moledina is a regular volunteer at her local mosque Hujjat Stanmore, north London. During Ramadan, she helps to serve food every night to approximately 900-1,000 people who are attending iftar (breaking of fast). Typically, she would be looking forward to helping out during the next four weeks. However in view of the nationwide lockdown, Moledina admitted she felt sad at the prospect of not being able spend time at the mosque.
“We really look forward to the month and it is so nice to see everybody,” she told Eastern Eye.
Her local mosque will instead be running online programmes and producing video content of special prayers, so followers can recreate the experience of being in the mosque. Moledina is also volunteering to put together online services, where users are able to listen to scriptures from the Qu’ran.
“We will be dedicating the blessings to people in our families who have passed away,” she explained. “The father of one of our volunteers recently passed away from coronavirus, so the blessings are for him and everyone else who has been affected.”
Meanwhile Janmohamed, who is isolating with her husband and two children, has been cheered by the charitable efforts of her local mosque to ensure that the community feels engaged and looked after. For instance, one mosque has created a distribution list of households with elderly or vulnerable residents so they can deliver supplies to them every evening.
“I think there will be lots of things that develop as the month goes on and there are already a lot of positive signs,” she added.
Moledina said she hoped that the current circumstances will make people thankful for the “little things” in life. “(Things like) being able to go to the shops when we want to, or hugging a friend,” she said.
“(When lockdown is over), I hope we appreciate our freedom and people much more.”