The holy month of Ramadan began on 23 April 2020. It’s the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and observed by Muslims worldwide as a time of fasting. It also involves congregating for longer extra prayers (Tarawih), sharing meals as a community, practicing self-discipline, sacrifice and to show compassion for the less privileged.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year means fasting under different constraints. With strict lockdowns and social distancing directives enforced to limit the spread, Ramadan in 2020 means no communal gatherings in mosques for night prayers and no Iftar parties (the evening meal to end the fast) with family and friends. Almost all countries have closed mosques while others have banned congregation and asked people to pray at home in addition to imposing curfews.
Farhan Usmani, SSP’s Technical Delivery Manager, works from our India office and tells us about how his life has altered this month for the Ramadan celebrations.
“I live with my parents, wife and 6 months old daughter, but this year Ramadan is a smaller affair. Still, we arrange video calls with my sisters and other relatives who live in a different city. Technology is really helping us to stay connected.
We used to invite friends and family over for Iftar and end fast together but, with a strict lockdown in place, this can’t be done. So we’re preparing new dishes by following online recipes then sharing the pics and recipes with everyone.
With a 6-month-old in the family it’s a bit challenging for all of us to pray together so we do it in shifts. My mother and wife offer prayers first then me and my father. During the morning meal (Suhoor – eaten before the start of the fast), my daughter usually gets up so we have one meal all together and that is an amazing experience for us.”
Although some Ramadan traditions have been adapted, the food that Farhan and his family will make and eat hasn’t altered too much.
“For the morning meal we’ll have oatmeal with some added extras. Then our evening meal will usually consist of cut fruits, juices and home-made dishes like pancakes, sandwiches, spring rolls and Shahi toast (a little like bread pudding). Since potatoes are a family favourite, we often try different recipes to mix them up a little. A popular one is called ‘Aloo Pakoda’ which we all love.”
Farhan’s top 4 tips for Ramadan
Create a schedule with realistic goals
Time management is important during Ramadan so consider setting up a timetable and organize your day, maintaining the right balance between your work and worship.
Ramadan is a month of increased prayers and Quran recitations however, during this time, it is also important to not put too much pressure on. Develop a habit of reciting a chapter daily or, if that’s not possible, then read a few pages and put some time in to go through the translation in the language you understand best.
Eat healthily and stay hydrated
Our bodies need energy throughout the day and so slow-energy-releasing food like oatmeal, porridge, and cereals should be considered during suhoor. Avoid fried food and, most importantly, do not overeat.
Fasting also brings the risk of dehydration so drink as much water as you can between Iftar and Suhoor – preferably lukewarm as it’s thought to be absorbed faster – and avoid caffeine.
It’s commonly advised to eat dates: they’re thought to be quite effective in restoring energy after a day-long fast. They are low in fat, cholesterol and sodium but higher in natural sugars, fibre, and protein with some varieties also having higher amounts of Vitamin A and calcium. It is also one of Prophet Muhammad’s (pbuh) teachings.
Charity (Sadqah and Zakaat)
Acts of charity is another important aspect of the month of Ramadan and the current situation has given us a bigger opportunity to help. People around the world are suffering and many are out of work or struggling with their health and so we need to be generous when donating and help those in need whatever ways we can. Please don’t give just the obligatory alms; give as much as you can as Sadqah as well.
Stay connected whilst you worship
Use technology to stay in touch with your loved ones so you can still celebrate together. Many mosques and Islamic institutions are now online and delivering livestream discourses, recitation of the Quran, and prayers.
Farhan summarises by saying: “Whilst it’s tough, we also have more time for spiritual reflection as Ramadan is all about spirituality and getting close to God. The focus can be moved away from holding large Iftar parties and instead on self-improvement and reaffirming your faith.
Have a blessed month of Ramadan!”