Unusual circumstances, but spirit of Ramadan remains the same

Although Ramadan returns under unusual circumstances this year, the spirit of the holy month will never change. Charity, family, forgiveness, community and compassion are concepts that transcend time and overcome the toughest challenges.

With the social distancing guidelines, the iftar gatherings will be limited to people within our households. Mosques will not be able to host worshipers and offer the spiritual fulfilment that comes with communal prayers. Dearborn’s famed iftar buffets and suhoor events are cancelled. Some people may have to spend much of this month alone.

However, it is not big meals that make Ramadan special. Spirituality is not confined to a space, and solidarity does not require physical presence. The outbreak of the coronavirus has shown us how much we need each other, and how vulnerable our world is. The holy month stresses the same values and sense of community whose importance we’ve come to realize during these hardships.

We may not be able to hug and shake hands with our loved ones, but perhaps today we are closer to each other than ever. Ramadan should continue to push us in that direction.

During the holy month, we should remember to put the collective over the individual. That means strictly abiding by the social distancing rules no matter how tempting it may be to meet up with friends or socialize in large groups. It is not only a religious thing to do, but also a religious duty to protect the well-being of the greater community.

There are many theories and interpretations on why fasting is mandated in Islam. But one thing is for sure: Willfully refraining from eating and drinking is an exercise of controlling our most basic instinct for a superior good. That’s why charity is especially emphasized during the holy month. We have seen Arabs and Muslims already step up their charitable giving during the Covid-19 crisis, demonstrating the generosity of our religion and culture. We must continue and grow those efforts, so everyone is looked after during the holy month. We have to further enshrine the culture of giving in our community.

The Prophet Muhammad says: “He is not a believer whose stomach is filled while the neighbor to his side goes hungry.” Make sure your neighbor is not hungry. If you suspect a family is in need of assistance, call up and offer to help. There is no shortage of organizations that help the less fortunate in our region. If you have more than you need, donate to these groups.

We will persist and persevere despite the seemingly bleak reality. And when Ramadan comes back next year, we may look back at today’s challenges with fondness. Now, we have more time to reflect and worship and spend time with our family members. And thanks to modern technology, our friends and loved ones here and back home are only a few pushes of a button away.

The Yemeni American News wishes you and your family a blessed and happy Ramadan.