Muslim Americans Contemplate Another Ramadan During the Pandemic: NPR


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Radwan is a friend who breaks his fast on his birthday during Ramadan 2020.

Noah Siddiq / Radwan Siddiq


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Noah Siddiq / Radwan Siddiq

Safia Zaidi, 21, always enjoyed celebrating Ramadan. She grew up in a Muslim home, and considers the Muslim month of fasting from dawn to dusk to be the best time of the year.

“You see all the friends that you don’t usually see during the rest of the year, and there is food, there are lectures … and a real sense of community,” Zaidi says.

Al-Zaydi says spending another Ramadan at home seems fantastic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she wants to make the most of it.

“The important thing that we did this year, not last year, is that we did a lot of decorating,” says Zaidi. “I think it’s very important to have a physical reminder that now you’re a month.”

On Tuesday, April 13, Muslim communities across the United States began fasting for the second Ramadan during the pandemic. Last year, Ramadan was early in the pandemic starting April 24th. Many events, including mosque prayers, iftar meals, and evening meals that break every day have been canceled, or have been turned into virtual. Although mosques and community organizations continue to create virtual events this year, some Islamic centers hold personal prayers. American Muslims are also considering how the epidemic will alter their fasting experiences.

While societal aspects of Ramadan are essential to the experience, the month also centers on charity and worship, developing empathy, and connecting with others, according to Tom Clwyd, 66, Member of the Board of Directors of the Islamic Center at Birchy Creek in Cedar Park, Texas.

“We’ve gone out of their way this year to get a lot further,” says Cloyd.

The center hosts a variety of virtual events and lectures to attract different parts of the community. Over the weekend, they have talks that she leads and focuses on Muslim women. On Sundays, they hold youth-focused events.

“We started a group breakfast on Zoom,” says Cloyd. “We just started last night and had 45 people logged in.”

The mosque holds personal prayers with reduced capacity and adheres to other guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Everyone must bring their own prayer rug, and implement the social distancing and reservation system. They also sometimes use outdoor space to also hold numbers.

Decorations at Safia Zaidi’s table on the first day of Ramadan this year.

Safia Zaidi


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Safia Zaidi


Decorations at Safia Zaidi’s table on the first day of Ramadan this year.

Safia Zaidi

“they [people] We want to be together. “This is a time when society and people come together,” says Cloyd.

But there is still a sense of uncertainty due to the pandemic. Radwan Siddiqui, 23, who usually resides in the Gulf region but spends Ramadan this year with his family, says he will be late to personally praying at his mosque during Ramadan.

“The good thing is that our mosque [mosque] It is the live broadcast, so you can try to follow it, ”my friend says.

“I try to have a mindset dealing with how people do this in other places, like creating WhatsApp groups where we keep each other on a mission about our progress trying to do … virtual reading circles.”

Meanwhile, Zaidi is excited about the possibility that her mosque will hold a personal prayer service. In the past year, it has been tough for her to attend the countless virtual events on Zoom.

“There was a feeling that the connection wasn’t that strong and intense,” she says. “You cannot make eye contact with the person giving the lectures.”

Communicate spiritually in Ramadan

Luma Khabbaz, 24And the Residing in Chicago, she found that fasting during the pandemic made her appreciate the quieter month of Ramadan and the opportunity to spend more time with her family.

“I prefer to celebrate and observe it… with my close family. I think there is a fun camaraderie that will go to dinner parties, but you kind of lose track of it on days like this,” says Khabbaz.

She also feels able to connect more spiritually. Usually, she would attend the mosque for Tarawih prayers, which is a nighttime prayer that Muslims perform in Ramadan, and listen to the imam reciting the Qur’an while praying. Instead, she read the clips herself last year.

“The thing that I was finally able to do was read the Qur’an myself in this place where I felt like I was performing a prayer myself,” she says.

Stripping away his social and “enjoyable” elements helped Ramadan reassert her spiritual commitment.

Lama Khabbaz celebrates her first Eid during the pandemic in 2020.

Luma Khabbaz


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Luma Khabbaz


Lama Khabbaz celebrates her first Eid during the pandemic in 2020.

Luma Khabbaz

“This is the ultimate test for me, the fact that when no one is here to hold me accountable, I am fasting, and I study,” she says. She is also passionate about spending more time cooking. Khabaz grew up eating Syrian food, but plans to try recipes from other kitchens.

“I will try to escalate it,” she says. “Usually I’ll make something to eat, but maybe I’ll make an appetizer or dessert.”

We hope for a more “normal” Ramadan

For the many Muslims who are being vaccinated now, there is more to look forward to this year than last Ramadan. My friend says he’s excited to go on breakfast outings with his friends who have also been vaccinated.

“I think it definitely will not be like anything before the pandemic,” my friend says.

“But I think it suffices to be reminded of what that space looks like so that I can hold on to that and use it as something satisfying.”

Al-Zaidi also plans to meet other friends who have been vaccinated safely and in small groups to eat.

“We feel safe and secure enough because many of us live with elderly grandparents, so it is important that you have that safety,” Zaidi says of vaccination.

Zaydism says the epidemic has changed its perception of Ramadan as an experience. “It’s almost a very pure reflection of what a month should be, because it’s a collective and community month,” she says.

“What is the best way to protect your community by making sure everyone is safe and healthy.”

Hadia Bakkar is an NPR Trainee at the National Office.


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