Ramadan, the holy month in the Islamic faith that commences this week, will look fundamentally different this year due to COVID-19. It is a time for fasting during daylight hours; congregating for prayers; sharing the evening meal with family, friends, and community; and providing meals to the poor.
Celebrating in Isolation
The world’s 1.8 billion Muslims must now celebrate the customary evening fast-breaking meal of iftar under self-confinement in order to maintain social distancing. Mosques that are usually full during the day remain closed, and the city of Mecca, home to Islam’s holiest site, is eerily vacant.
State efforts to curb the spread of infection will be tested during Ramadan.
In the Muslim-majority countries in North Africa, governments have had to weigh their duty to protect public health with the compulsion by their constituents to protect their religious rites and practices. Morocco recently declared an extension of its state of emergency until May 20, and Algeria extended its lockdown until April 29. Egypt, the first African country to be affected by COVID-19, still has crowded streets due to economic circumstances, with millions of informal workers who must work to feed their families.
State efforts to curb the spread of infection will be tested during Ramadan, but fortunately religious institutions have urged compliance with stay-at-home measures and released fatwas, or religious rulings, about what was permissible.