A Very Different Ramadan

By Imam Al-Hajj Hakim Abdul-Ali

The religion of Al-Islam is one of the world’s largest religious traditions with almost two billion adherents globally. It’s also widely recognized as the globe’s fastest growing religion, and in this comprehensive “deen,” or way of life, there is no more important celebratory occasion than the observation of the holy fasting month of Ramadan.

All knowledgeable Muslims everywhere know that in the Holy Qur’aan, ALLAH says in Surah (Chapter) 2, Ayah (Verse) 183, that, “0 you who believe, “Saum” is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may develop righteousness (God consciousness).” Fasting during this month doesn’t just include the daily abstentions from eating food and drinking liquids from dawn to sunset, but also it entails abstentions from using negative words and harboring unproductive thoughts from one’s mental and spiritual faculties and participating in sexual relations with his or her legal spouse during the fasting time frame.

Ramadan is the month in which the Holy Qu’raan was first revealed to the Holy Prophet Muhammad in Arabia more than fourteen hundred-years-ago. This sacred month is the ninth month of the twelve months Islamic yearly calendar, which is based upon the lunar calendar, comprising approximately 354 days, as opposed to the western society’s Gregorian calendar, comprising normally 365 days, and it serves as the Muslims’ month of fasting, giving, sharing and spiritual self-evaluations.

Ramadan, the much awaited fasting period begins this year at dawn on Friday, April 24, 2020, and lasts for thirty days, unless the moon is sighted at the end of the twenty-ninth day of Ramadan,  and all observant participants are encouraged to read the entire Holy Qur’aan in its entirety by the end of Ramadan. The anticipation for this sacred month’s arrival is greatly anticipated and widely appreciated for the throngs of Muslims worldwide.

For them, this is also a time where the devout Muslims usually participates in extra nightly prayers called “Tarawih,” usually in joint congregations in the masjids wherever they live, showing their greater allegiances to the Creator Alone for them to be able to see and observe another Ramadan. The sincere Muslim knows that this month is a solemn month of religious introspections, reflections and devotions to the Creator Alone of everyone and everything in existence.

This Ramadan observances will undoubtedly be different due to the arrival many months ago of the dreaded and widespread pandemic disease called COVID-19, or commonly known as coronavirus, upon the globe’s territorial landscapes. Due to this disease, there’s been severe alterations in how all religious groupings and gatherings meet and assemble for their various spiritual services and activities, and, of course, this applies to and impacts the global Muslim communities everywhere, including those here in the continental USA, where almost all masjids are closed as safety precautions against spreading the COVID-19 pandemic.

With implementation of numerous health and safety orders in effect everywhere across the nation and the world-at-large, including social distancing and the limitation of the numbers of individuals who may be present in given location at any given time, the coronavirus impacts how all individuals do and will live their lives going forward. To say that is and will be a very different observance of Ramadan for Muslims globally will be and is an understated reality.

Due to the legal restrictions against large numbers congregating throughout  the nation and with enforcement of residential quarantined sectors, most observant Muslims will be confined to their homes in observing this year’s ritual Ramadan duties and practices. The dangerous COVID-19 pandemic is something  that no intelligent soul, Muslim or non-Muslim, should play with or take for granted.

So, you see, this devastating and spreading disease obviously affects everyone worldwide, including Muslims everywhere, in many once-unthinkable sickly and deathly norms, especially when it comes to the global Islamic communities practicing and breaking of their fast activities. And, more than likely, there will be no large numbers of believers gathered in any one specific location performing certain Ramadan related group participatory activities.

Please take heed. Be aware. The fasting Muslim must recognize and be warned that this horrific coronavirus pandemic is not to be taken lightly. It’s a potential deathly disease for which, at present, there’s no known cure or anecdote. Again, in the USA, as of this article, all citizenry are advised to stay at home unless they have limited, necessary listed “essential” business to be performing or otherwise doing.

In closing, Allah willing, this will be my 55th year of observing “siyam” during this blessed holy month, and I feel that it’s truly an eye opener in the sense that the entire world, Muslim and non-Muslim, has received wake up calls from the Creator Alone to further be aware of the fragilities of how precious the living experience really, really is. For this sole, understandable reason, I’m anxious for Ramadan’s appearance because I have much to thank and ask ALLAH for in my prayers during this time of forgiveness, while ultimately wishing for blessings and good will upon all in “hue-manity.”

The fasting month of Ramadan is a month of spiritual upheaval and religious advancements, and also it is an occasion to think of what it means to be hungry, homeless and destitute at anytime in one’s life as so many countless “hue-mans” are. In that vein, I’m thinking of the all of the oppressed Muslims who are systematically and clandestinely persecuted in, e.g.,  Myanmar, China, Palestine, Africa, Russia, New Zealand and in all other recorded and under reported sectors of the globe where religious oppression exists.

As a submitter and believer in ALLAH’s dynamic messages to all “hue-mankind,” I pray that this year’s unique, somewhat different observances of Ramadan’s all- embracing magnificence engulfs all of the dedicated God Alone fearing, lovingly obedient and peace seeking believers in Al-Islam in a bond of renewed  brotherhood and sisterhood. It’s about struggle in more ways than one.

Islam is about peace and, as such, it should lead inspire all of the Muslims to earnestly read the Holy Quran this blessed month. I humbly, but steadily, ask Allah to give them, and others, a more purified and truer understanding of what the beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) taught, practiced and exemplified according to the authentic and proper Quranic divine rules, instructions, teachings and observations.

Due to COVID-19’s appearance on world’s stage, this year’s Ramadan observances may be observed and looked upon as being somewhat dissimilar than in the other years’ and generations’ gone by observances. That maybe the case but, in reality, “Ramadan is ‘still’ Ramadan. May this year’s observances be ever-so-generous and rewarding to you and to all who are prayerfully near and dear to you.

Ramadan is like no other time of the year because it’s uniquely special and divinely inspired. It’s a sacred challenge to all of the faithful believers everywhere in the Creator Alone everywhere to get closer to the real spiritual purpose and understanding of what being a real Muslim is all about. It’s about “peace.”

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