Traditionally, Ramadan begins with the sighting of the crescent moon, which generally appears one night after the new moon, meaning the start date cannot be precisely predicted. The Islamic calendar (Hijri) is based on the lunar cycle, and as a result of this, the Holy month of Ramadan rotates by approximately 10 days each year.
The first day of fasting for the Holy month of Ramadan, is set to be Friday, April 24 in most parts of the Islamic world, while the rest is set to start on Saturday, April 25. Qatar, Egypt, Indonesia, Morocco, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and many other Muslim nations announced to begin fasting on April 24.
Ramadan marks the time the Koran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him). Fasting during Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam. It begins a few hours after the sighting of the moon at sunrise and continues until sunset.
Tonight, the world’s 1.8bn Muslims will start Ramadan, a month’s holiday of prayer and dawn-to-dusk fasting. It will be the most challenge in living memory. This year’s religious event represents a novelty. Traditionally, Ramadan is spent visiting the mosque with fellow worshippers, reconnecting and bonding with extended family and gathering over evening meals, acts coupled with making acts of profound generosity and charity with a view to reaffirming faith.
However, it is expected that strict social distancing rules in place will affect many aspects of Ramadan in 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the coronavirus global outbreak, many activities during Ramadan are certainly lessened in Muslim-majority nations. Muslim scholars across the world have called on people to stay safe at home, practicing restraint over the social activities this Ramadan, keeping mosques closed and congregational prayers on hold in order to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
In the heart of Islam’s holy places, Saudi Arabia has already announced it would maintain the ban on all congregational prayers in the country. Tarawih prayers (special ritual prayers performed at night during Ramadan) will be held without public attendance, at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina, performed by Sheikhs and staff of the two Mosques. Many houses of worship will be closed to Muslims throughout Ramadan, but the call to prayer will still take place five times a day, with the help of religious workers.
The month of Ramadan represents not only a time to fast and devote a particular focus to prayer, purification, and charitable acts, but also gives a sense of community. However, with strict curfews and physical distancing directives enforced to limit the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 disease, many of Ramadan’s rituals and traditions will be affected this year. It appears to be a very different experience for Muslims, as the world needs to adapt to changing circumstances generated by the pandemic.
As a general rule during Ramadan, Muslims wake up early to eat a pre-dawn meal called suhoor, and break their fast after sunset with a meal called iftar. Breaking of the fast is usually a communal affair, being the highlight of the day after long fasting hours. As a result, it is common for mosques to host large iftars, especially for the needy. Since the world is going through an ongoing pandemic, most of the countries have advised citizens to avoid large gatherings and have suhoor and iftar individually or with family at home, missing out on the communal experience, for the purpose of public health safety. In the end, Muslims are finding ways to live out faith, despite the troubling circumstances and lockdowns in place in various corners of the world. The essence of Ramadan and the focus on spirituality will be maintained at the individual level this year. It gives the chance to shift the focus on the Holy’s month true introspective essence in an unprecedented time.
Message from Middle East Political and Economic Institute:
On the occasion of the arrival of the holy month of Ramadan we extend our sincerest well-wishes to the Islamic world.
Especially in this challenging context of the year 2020,
We are wishing you all the blessings of the holy month and may we all overcome the obstacles.
May God accept our prayers and bring us better days.
And not the least, may this Ramadan bring joy, health, safety, and wealth to each and every family!