Since coronavirus restrictions came into effect and locked us all inside our houses like little goblins (let us ouuutttt), it’s been a new and strange time celebrating certain events and holidays.
Birthday parties are being held on Zoom, students are graduating uni via Animal Crossing (with AOC in attendance) and we’re even learning how to navigate relationships (and how to, uh, exit them) from a social distance.
Ramadan has been no exception.
Usually a holiday focused on connection with community and family, filled with feasting and visiting local mosques, those observing the Muslim holy month in 2020 have had to alter their practices and traditions accordingly. And while the essence and spirit of Ramadan remains the same, it looks a lot different this year.
If you’re looking to support and connect with your Muslim friends during this time, or are observing yourself under very different circumstances, you might have some questions.
We reached out to five Instagram creatives to hear about their celebrations and how they’re going with the (Covid) flow this year.
But first, a few particulars…
What is Ramadan?
Ramadan is considered the most sacred month of the year for Muslims. It’s believed that during this month, the first verses of the Quran, Islam’s sacred text, was revealed to the prophet Mohammed.
This time is a period of both celebration and reflection. People generally spend time with family, in prayer and in reflection about one’s faith. Ramadan is also a time to consider one’s intentions in the world, and people often give to charity and perform acts of service during it. At the end of Ramadan, there is a big celebration, called Eid al-Fitr, or the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.
Being Sensitive About Ramadan
While some Muslim people might appreciate you asking what the significance of Ramadan is for them personally, quizzing someone on the significance of this month ain’t it chief.
It could potentially make someone feel uncomfortable depending on how they’re practising their faith and is also a lil lazy. If you have a specific question, Google it first and keep in mind that practises, rituals and even the dates that Ramadan is observed vary.
What is fasting about?
For many Muslims, a big part of Ramadan is the fasting aspect. This means not eating or drinking from sunrise to sunset—or until total darkness.
The practice serves many purposes: reminding people of their humanity and fragility, showing people what it’s like to be hungry and thirsty—to make people more compassionate for those less fortunate—and to reduce distractions from people’s relationship to their faith. While most people fast, people who are ill, pregnant or nursing, menstruating or very young or old may not have to.
A note: fasting does not lower your immunity, or increase your risk of COVID-19. Studies actually associate it with health benefits, including immune improvement.
BTW, now is really not the time to compare this to your intermittent fasting routine, act shocked or sad that someone “has to” do this, or talk happily about potential weight loss. It can come across as insensitive, as can offering to join in and fast in “solidarity.”
Acting shocked can make people feel alienated and othered, and considering Muslims are the second-largest religious group in the world, that’s unnecessary!
Consider instead being flexible with when you FaceTime, or coordinating when someone needs to help with a Zoom group project, to allow for a changed sleeping, eating and prayer schedule.
How Muslims are observing Ramadan this year (and how it’s a little different than usual)
“This Ramadan is one to remember,” Tagrid Ahmad, the Sydney-based food enthusiast behind @mamaghanouj_kitchen, told Syrup, “We are keeping the Ramadan spirit alive, despite the Covid restrictions, I believe the essence of this Holy month remains the same. As Mosques are closed we have used this opportunity to reconnect with our faith and have the kids more involved in a more intimate setting rather than the usual hustle and bustle of previous years where the true essence of Ramadan was lost and we focused more on the feasting.”
Ahmad added: “[We are] maintaining the physical distancing restrictions in order to protect not only ourselves but people around us. Despite the different execution in practices this year, it is important to know you can still reflect, pray, share, and care–all from a healthy distance. Ensure that family and friends are still engaged despite physical distancing like encouraging alternate and digital platforms for interaction.”
Sara Youssef (@sara_why), noted, “As we approached Ramadan, I felt like it was going to be really tough trying to observe Ramadan the way we usually do as a family and community. However as we entered Ramadan, I realised it’s still just as amazing and pure as it always is.”
“Year upon year we welcome Ramadan with some decorations around the house to get the kids (and adults too) into the beautiful Ramadan vibes. Lanterns, fairy lights, banners, moons and stars accompany our decorations and this year was no different.”
Some advice for those observing this year
Makeup artist Zena Khatib (or @zenakhatibmakeup) advises to look inside, “You’re not alone. Be patient, remember the values of the holy month, and make the most of it.”
Lina, or @thelebaneseplate, is in favour of food: “Get into the kitchen with your fam! Cooking is a life-long and essential skill to master. Use this time to learn and experiment. Young Muslims, like many across the globe, are quite active online and especially on social media. So I would tell them now is the time to positively use it to your advantage.”
“Why not cook up a feast and host a virtual iftar or go live on Instagram and cook with friends and family? This period in our lives is like no other but I’m sure it’s a time that we will all remember and talk about for years to come. Make it positively memorable! Share your experiences, engage and connect with those in your home and others virtually.”
How are you staying connected to culture and community this year?
Zena Khatib told Syrup, “Instagram has started a global movement for Ramadan this month, which helped me connect to my community as the spiritual atmosphere of Ramadan has gone viral this month, seeing amazing inspirational content and posts from friends around the world, featuring their delicious recipes and iftar tables, and creative decorations.”
“We are using technology as much as we can to engage with our family via social media,” said Tagrid Ahmad, “Going digital has definitely made it easier to stay in touch, watching live streaming of Islamic lectures, as opposed to physically attending lectures. Our community has gone above and beyond to make this month a little bit more bearable via digital methods.”
Another upside of being connected via Instagram? It’s a good excuse to dress up, according to Nawal Sari or @nawalsari.
“My followers are really active and are spread all over the world so I love seeing everyone’s routines and fun things they do, it’s inspiring! It’s also been a great way to spread knowledge on those in need, people want to donate and make a change which is so wholesome. I’m super excited for Eid also, so many of us have been in sweats for weeks so are SO excited to put a cute dress on.”
P.S. Want to support your mates who are observing? Some humble suggestions…
Check in with them! Ask them how they’re going, and if you can do anything to support them—especially since COVID-19 will have made things difficult and disrupted.
Don’t completely ignore their fasting. Many Muslims find it comforting and supportive if you acknowledge their fasting just like any other thing, you don’t have to talk around it.
Don’t joke, taunt or ‘tempt’ your friends while they’re fasting. Even if you think it’s funny, it isn’t. Like, literally ever.