What Ramadan Means During a Lockdown

A mosque in Hanover, Germany, set up for social distancing. Photo by Eman Helal.

In Muscat, Oman, Coronavirus has reshaped an important month of the year for Muslims.

Ramadan is a month of worship where Muslims can become closer to God and devote themselves to their faith. It is a sacred month in the Islamic Calendar as it is believed that it was in Ramadan that God revealed the first verses of the holy book, the Quran.

What happens during Ramadan?

For the whole month, Muslims start their fast by not eating or drinking from dawn and break it at sunset. This act is to become more compassionate towards the less fortunate and is a significant part of being Muslim as it is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.

Infographic by Fatma Al-Harthi

The month is intended to be a time for personal, spiritual and religious discipline. It is when contemplation of one’s relationship with Allah, or God is required. Muslims have to perform increased services of charity and kindness to the community, refrain from negative personality qualities and thoroughly study the Quran.

This year, it began on the 23rd of April and ends a month later as it usually does, preparing millions of Muslims to celebrate the festival of breaking the long fast, Eid Al-Fitr under lockdown.

Muscat, the capital city of Oman has been under total lockdown since the 10th of April in a strategy of containing the spread of the virus. As of the 19th of May, there have been 5,671 confirmed cases, including 1,574 recoveries and 27 deaths according to the Ministry of Health.

How is the lockdown in Muscat affecting the Muslim community?

Breaking the fast together with family and friends is no longer the norm this month. This has heavily influenced the sensation of Ramadan for most.

Rafiya Al-Qaidi, an Omani entrepreneur shares her experience in the following interview.

What is being done about it instead?

Oman is known to be one of the most generous countries in the Middle East for their hospitality. The people are helpful, kind and very sympathetic. This has been shown during the lockdown with local charities and the people themselves.

As construction workers are not able to feed themselves during the lockdown period, many are struggling to feed themselves. A charity drive in Muscat has brought together companies and volunteers to deliver free meals to the country’s blue-collar workers. Businesses included are the WJ Towell Business group, Dar Al-Atta’a, Oman Post and different chains of large hypermarkets like Carrefour.

The charities aim to distribute around 10,000 meals a day during the Islamic holy month, as construction workers are not being paid during the lockdown period which leaves many strained to feed themselves.

Also in the narrow paths of Muttrah, the most affected district in Muscat, a middle-aged restaurateur hands out around 1,000 food baskets that contain what is necessary for iftar. Ali Thani’s work is located in Ayeen, which is heavily populated by underprivileged expatriates.

Port of Muttrah, Muscat, Oman. Photo by Trip Advisor @horsholmer.

“Since the Muscat Governate has gone through lockdown, Ali Al-Thani has started distributing food baskets”, said Ali Al-Harthi, a manager in Bank Muscat and also a social worker for OCA (Oman’s Cancer Association) and Dar Al Atta’a.

“He is doing what a lot of people should – go out of their way to support one another. It is even mentioned in the Quran than those who don’t do that on earth wouldn’t be looked upon in Judgement Day.”

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