Social distancing during Ramadan and how to observe it

Ramadan is traditionally considered a special time of the year, but current events in 2020 will shape the Islamic holy month in unprecedented ways. The global COVID-19 outbreak means that many usual events have been cancelled and traditions may be marked differently in line with health recommendations.

Saudi Arabia, which is home to two of Islam’s holiest sites, has suspended group prayers at mosques until the end of the pandemic. These services include the daily obligatory prayers as well as the special Taraweeh rites held in Ramadan. In the UAE, the Hag Al Leila community celebration ahead of the holy month was moved into people’s homes. While the situation changes on a daily basis, it is clear that events such as iftar gatherings with friends and extended family are unlikely to take place in the same manner as previous years.

Yet, the situation offers an opportunity to refocus on the core aspects of Ramadan. The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is a season for reflection and devotion. The world’s 1.8 billion Muslims practice self-control by fasting from dawn to dusk, while giving back to society through charity and generous actions. These aspects are likely to take priority this Ramadan as people have more time at their disposal. Here are some ways to mark Ramadan in the Islamic year 1441.

  1. Pray and read the Quran: At its core, Ramadan is about devotion. Along with fasting, Islamic scholars consider reading and reciting the Quran as the best means of taqwa (piety). It is the duty of every Muslim to read the holy book and doing so in Ramadan is considered especially blessed. While it may not be possible for most people to match great ninth-century Imam Al-Shafi’I, who reportedly read the holy book 60 times each Ramadan, the faithful will certainly have more time to spend in prayer and contemplation away from other distractions.
  2. Stream religious services: Thanks to enhanced internet connectivity, everyone can attend classes and prayers online from mosques in a number of different countries. In the UAE, courses for new Muslims are being conducted via WhatsApp, but it’s also worth checking the website of the General Authority of Islamic Affairs and Endowments (awqaf.ae) for updates about Ramadan services.
  3. Fulfil your zakat duties online: The Sunnah (Islamic tradition) holds that every Muslim must undertake zakat al-Fitr, or charity towards the poor during the last weeks of the holy month. Considered a token of thankfulness for having completed the Ramadan fast, fulfilling this obligation assumes greater importance this year in view of the large numbers of people reeling from the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. There are a number of avenues for the faithful to meet their zakat observances over the internet – both within the UAE and elsewhere. With a little time and research, you could easily find the right organization that will do the most good in line with your own personal convictions.
  4. Sponsor a child’s education in the UAE: Ramadan really is about thinking about other people, which is why generosity assumes such importance in the holy month. But some of those who are the hardest hit by the coronavirus are young children, who require support to be able to continue their education in these challenging times. You can do your bit by contributing towards equitable access to distance learning for all UAE children and youth thanks to the launch of a recent government initiative.
  5. Teach children about Ramadan: As we spend more time together this Ramadan, bonding with each other comes more easily than in normal times. Parents, in particular, can use this time at home to share their values with their children and observe Ramadan rituals together. Each family has its own traditions around the holy month and there’s no better time to share these with the next generation – or even start your own new tradition!
  6. Set up an online suhoor: Online video meetings and birthday parties are already a thing. Even here in the UAE, residents are finding new ways to connect with far-flung family and friends as different services have become available. These apps offer a great way to reconnect with those in other countries – there’s no reason that you can’t have a local or international suhoor gathering with friends from all walks of life.

Citibank will be hosting a number of online activities on social media over the course of the holy month. Follow along on Facebook for a chance to win some exciting prizes!

Keith J Fernandez is an editor and communications professional who advises on marketing content strategy. He is based between the UAE, the Netherlands and India and writes about business, technology and personal finance.

The content reflects the view of the author of the article and does not necessarily reflect the views of Citi or its employees, and we do not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information presented in the article except information on Citibank N.A. – UAE products referenced herein.

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