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Taking a closer look at Ramadan

Pandemic disruption: Covid-19 has prevented Bermuda’s Muslim community from gathering at the Masjid Muhammad during Ramadan

This marks the end of week three of Ramadan for billions of Muslims around the world. Here in Bermuda, members of the Muslim community are also participating in this religious practice. Ramadan is the Holy Month for Muslims and the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar. Like other ancient religions, Muslims follow the lunar calendar which is aligned with the cycles of the moon and is approximately ten days shorter than the Gregorian calendar.The month of Ramadan officially begins with the sighting of the new moon. The exact date and time vary from year to year, but this year Ramadan began on April 24 and will end a week from today. Ramadan is traditionally a time of personal sacrifice. It is a period of fasting, reflection, charitable giving and devotion. Unlike many other religious holidays and observances, Ramadan has managed to remain generally free of commercialisation and maintains its intense spiritual meaning. Muslims believe that the first verses of Holy Koran were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad during the month of Ramadan. As such, they honour this holy month by fasting for specific periods of time and deepening their already rigorous prayer life. To fast, in Arabic, means “to refrain” and applies beyond just food. Muslims are called to refrain from gossiping, swearing, smoking and other “bad habits” during this time. This act of fasting, or refraining, is believed to redirect the heart from worldly activities and teach self-discipline, sacrifice and empathy for those less fortunate. This practice of fasting is one of the five pillars of the religion of Islam and considered among the highest forms of Islamic worship. Fasting from food during Ramadan is mandatory for all healthy and able-bodied adult Muslims and is observed from sunrise to sunset. Children, seniors and pregnant or breastfeeding women are exempt from fasting. Those who do not fast are encouraged to use this time to intentionally feed the homeless or those who have limited access to food. Participants fast from sunrise to sunset each day during the month of Ramadan. This time of fasting is less about the physical experience and more about the spiritual sacrifice it requires. The Holy Koran gives instructions for fasting during Ramadan and its purpose in Surah Al-Baqarah 2:183:“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.” Through Ramadan, the Muslim can learn many lessons that can apply to their lives all year round. By abstaining from food and drink during sunlight hours, Muslims begin to sympathise with those around the world who have little to eat every day. Through increased prayer time and devotion, Muslims connect more closely to Allah and give thanks for all His blessings. While Ramadan has become known for fasting, the experience of it is intended to be so much more. In addition to fasting, Muslims take this time to recite the Koran in celebration of the inspiration received by the Prophet Muhammad. The goal is to be able to read and recite the entire Holy Book. By removing many of the things that serve as distractions, Ramadan becomes a time of sincere reflection. This year’s Ramadan is undoubtably different for Bermuda’s Muslim community. Ordinarily during this time families would come together to break their fast daily and join others in the local Muslim community for daily prayers at the Mosque. With the suspension of religious and social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, services are not being held at the Masjid Muhammad during Ramadan. As such, the Muslim community may not be able to celebrate Ramadan the way they normally would. However, social-distancing protocols may serve to intensify this time of reflection and prayer. Prayers for forgiveness, guidance and protection from the Koran are customarily recited during this time.As Muslims enter the last week of Ramadan, they will end the holy month with a celebration of Eid Al-Fitr, more commonly referred to as Eid. This “Festival of Breaking the Fast” marks the ending of Ramadan and the beginning of the next month, Shawwal. A Feast of Eid is customarily held to commemorate the end of Ramadan. The celebration can last up to three days in certain cultures. In previous years, the local Muslim community have celebrated this occasion with a Jumuah service, or Friday prayers. This year families will celebrate among themselves. • Contact the Masjid Muhammad on 292-5986 or www.masjidmuhammad.net