The Unprecedented Ramadan

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Ismail Rotimi Lawal

On the 31st of December 2019, China recorded unknown pneumonia in Wuhan. The SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus which has been named COVID-19 by World Health Organization (WHO) on 11th February, 2020 is novel and has killed nothing fewer than 93,637 persons globally.

COVID-19 has spread to over 155 countries including Muslim nations such as Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria, with Iran recording over 84,800 cases and more than 5,290 deaths. The country with the highest Muslim faithful, Indonesia had a record of 7,418 cases of COVID-19 and 635 deaths as of April 22, 2020. This number is unlikely to come down anytime soon as the rate at which the virus spread is surprising, unless strict measures are enforced and complied with.

The disease that is invisible to the eyes without the help of an electron microscope is crumbling the economy of most powerful nations in the world, and forcing powerful government officials and affluent business moguls to commit suicide over its negative economic implication and unseating the European Union science chief from his position.

This novel Coronavirus could make the Muslims experience an unprecedented Ramadan before a vaccine is discovered. As at today, no end of the virus is in sight as numbers of new Coronavirus infected persons are being discovered. Muslims around the world are going to observe the number four pillar of Islam  in less than a month’s time. This is going to be a different experience entirely as Islamic rituals will be affected.

It’s worth noting that Saudi Arabia has suspended the permit to perform Umrah (lesser Hajj) since March 14, but the number COVID 19 cases in the country is not declining as they have recorded 11,631 cases and over 109 death, with a prediction that the cases could reach 200,000 in the coming weeks according to the health minister, Tawfiq al- Rabiah.

Regrettably, we have witnessed many callous and ignorant statements from some mullahs mocking China when the outbreak first started. A Shiite Iraqi preacher, Hadi Al-Modarresi called the virus a punishment from God on China due to their hateful treatment of Muslim faithful in the country. This x-rays the belief of many ignoramus Muslims who are misinforming their innocent followers. However, these Muslims are now being mocked because Muslims and Muslim nations are also victims of this virus.

On the 20th of March 2020, Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad(aba), Worldwide Head of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Fifth Khalifa (Caliph) of the Promised Messiah(as) while issuing instructions regarding the recent outbreak of Coronavirus, made an inclusive statement that is spiritually and secularly inclined. Huzur said:

“These epidemics will keep happening. It is absolutely wrong to declare every such outbreak to be a divine sign. It is also wrong to say, as some do, that Ahmadis will never contract these illnesses or, for that matter, to say that ‘sincere’ Ahmadis will not catch it.

“These epidemics cannot always be made a yardstick for one’s level of faith. The will that Hazrat Musleh Maud(ra) wrote during the Influenza outbreak started with the words: ‘I, Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, son of Hazrat Masih-e-Maud…’ “So it is Hazrat Musleh Maud(ra) writing the will and mentioning that he is the son of the Promised Messiah(aa). He contracted the illness and that too very severely. This clearly shows that contracting a certain illness is no criterion for one’s faith.”

This statement is to wash the Muslims clean of the corrupt belief they might have kept in hearts as regards the virus.

The financial implications of this pandemic could be detrimental than the 2007-2008 global financial crisis because the virus is not only killing people, it’s also collapsing the economy. Thousands of people have already lost their jobs due to curfews and lockdowns governments have announced to control the spread of the disease.

In Nigeria, millions of the citizens do not have a bank account they can fall back on during the lockdown. Those with bank accounts don’t have money to stock up food and essential needs. The ban on interstate movement also remains a challenge, it will affect the movement of food items during the month of Ramadan. For example, the consumption of beans increases during the month of Ramadan as many people traditionally make beans cake and puddings to break their fasts at sunset.  Similarly, it is likely that availability and consumption of fruits will decline considerably in urban areas due to lack of movement of goods from farms to markets.

The complexity of the current situation has been worrisome to millions of people around the globe, but it is a greater concern for Muslims because the best season of the year in Islam is just around the corner. It’s a time many people are looking forward to and it won’t be a pleasant experience if the virus continues to affect people till the Holy month of Ramadan. It will affect lots of Islamic traditions. The concern of many Muslims is how they will cope in the month of Ramadan if this pandemic continues to spread unabated.

How do we live through this forthcoming Ramadan

– Increase in Financial Sacrifice:

Muslims who work in factories and construction sites, traders and many others who make their living daily may experience some difficulties in this upcoming Ramadan. The preceding month which many Muslims use to work and save money for Ramadan is spent at home. Muslims are therefore in the time to support one another.

Ramadan is known as the month in which people increase their financial sacrifices, but these sacrifices and looking out for one another have to be an unprecedented one in this coming Ramadan so that every Muslim will experience the beauty of this Ramadan, despite the global situation.

We don’t have to wait until people ask, as many people are forced to sit at home with no assistance from the government, it is obvious that we need to increase our level of assistance to those in need around us.  Muslims in conditions of need will definitely appreciate all forms of support during this lockdown period.

Avoid public gatherings:

Sometimes last month, Tablighi Jammat in New Delhi, India converged in a complex for a religious purpose. The three-day camping was later reported to have caused the 400 coronavirus cases in the country. Various media outlets made use of this costly mistake to call the Muslim organization a Coronavirus carrier in India. The event has fueled more Islamophobic situations in the country, a home of 200 million Muslims.

All Muslim must take a lesson from this and avoid all religious public gathering in the month of Ramadan – tarawih, public tafsir, Jummah and other events that bring Muslims together in the Holy month of Ramadan. Al-Haafiz Abdurrofeeq Alaka made reference to Prophet Muhammad (saw) guidance on Jum’ah and wrote extensively in his article regarding the observance of Jum’ah service at home during COVID-19 pandemic.

– Stock up only Ramadan needs

This is the right time for Muslims to begin to buy imperishable food items and other essentials ahead of the Holy Month. Only items that are important should be purchased. This is not the time for lavish spending and spending on exclusive meals and drinks. Food items that are important and necessary for healthy living should be purchased.

Avoid going to the market in numbers to get food items, so that the risk of getting infected can be minimized. If possible, appoint a family member to be in charge of going on errand to the market. Adequate protective measures should be observed when it becomes impossible for you not to avoid public spaces.

Thanks to the internet, you can order all your essential needs from the comfort of your home.

Elderly people should consider their safety before they fast

According to World Health Organization, older people face more significant risk of developing severe illness if they contract COVID-19 due to physiological changes that comes with ageing and potential underlying health conditions.

Elderly people have low immunity to fight the virus. It’s necessary to know that non-consumption of food and water weakens the immune system, hence, these people’s health conditions pertaining COVID-19 must be considered carefully before they embark on 30 days of fasting.

Increase in prayer

The Holy month of Ramadan is a season Muslims around the globe significantly spend in worshipping Allah and supporting humanity. These acts of worship need to be taken to an upscale level. Muslims should sincerely use the period to seek Allah’s forgiveness, protection, and mercy on humanity. Muslims should also use this pre-Ramadan period to beg God to put an end to the spread of this virus before the month of Ramadan.

Remembrance of Allah is very paramount this time. Many people are in a state of panic and are not certain of their lives because of this virus, believers should remember Allah, read more of the Holy Qur’an, praise Him as Allah has said in the Holy Qur’an: ‘Those who believe, and whose hearts find comfort in the remembrance of Allah. Aye! it is in the remembrance of Allah that hearts can find comfort;’ Qur’an, chapter 13 verse 29.

Conclusion

Fasting in the middle of an outbreak of diseases is a great test of faith; Muslims should not despair or question the work of Allah, rather Muslims should draw closer to Allah and implore  His love and infinite mercy on all humans around the globe.

This century has never witnessed a pandemic virus in the month of Ramadan that will shut people from going to mosque and affect Ramadan rituals.

It’s time to reflect, to retrace our steps and to begin to make corrections where we have erred. 

This is the best time to show support for one another as Muslims. No one should be left behind; we have to reach out to one another as believers and one people.

As Muslims continue to pray that God stop the spread of COVID-19 before the month of Ramadan, we should be obedient to government rules, practice general hygiene and observe all precautionary measures announced by government officials.

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