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Ramadan 2020 could be very different

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How will corona virus affect Ramadan?

Ramadan is the holiest month for Muslims in lunar Islamic calendar, in which they fast during daylight hours, congregate for prayers and share meals as a community.

From long historical literature, we found that Muslims gathered during Ramadan, despite the natural disasters or war, and still observed their religious rituals together. But now a days, we are facing a different enemy this time around which is merciless and invisible. It is going to be very different Ramadan 2020 due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. Among one of the many challenges for 1.8 billion Muslims around the world, Ramadan traditions will have to be forsaken for the safety of global community.

Suhoor is the morning meal eaten by Muslims before the sun has come up. Iftar is evening meal often shared with extended family, and friends with which Muslims break their fast after sunset.

Usually, it is common for mosques to host large iftars, especially for the poor. However, the spread of Covid-19 will likely stop larger families and religious groups from gathering, as governments worldwide urge people to physically distance from one another.

Many countries this year have advised citizens to avoid large gatherings and have suhoor and iftar individually or with family at home due to Covid-19 pandemic which has spread to 185 nations.

Usually food consumption rises in Ramadan, so there are concerns of panic buying and supplies running low amid the lock downs.

Taraweeh prayers are banned in several countries, and many mosques have been temporarily closed.

How to spend Ramadan 2020?

Pakistan political government and religious leaders are on same page so that Pakistan can curb the spread of the virus in the holy month of Ramadan by staying away from crowds. The following are the 20 points agreed between Pakistan government and Islamic scholars:

  1. As corona virus is airbone, no carpets or mats to be laid down in mosques. Clean floors for prayers must be ensured.
  2. If people want to bring prayer mats from home they may do so.
  3. No gatherings after prayer will be permitted.
  4. If a mosque has an open area/garden, it is preferable to conduct prayers there.
  5. People over 50 years of age and children should not be allowed in mosques.
  6. Everyone must follow the instructions of social distancing by WHO and other health experts.
  7. Taraweeh should not be conducted on roads, footpaths and anywhere else than the mosque premises.
  8. People must continue to keep observing regular prayers at home.
  9. Masjid, Imam-bargah floors should be washed with chlorinated water regularly.
  10. There should be a six-feet distance between two individuals during congregational prayers.
  11. The mosque should form committees to ensure that people follow the rules and decided SOPs.
  12. Marks should be made on the floors of mosques and Imam-bargahs to guide people about the distance they should keep from others.
  13. People should do ablution at home.
  14. Encourage people to wear face masks when coming to mosques and maintain physical distance.
  15. Prevent from handshaking each other.
  16. Itikaf must be observed at home.
  17. No one is allowed to prepare or hold Sehri and Iftaar in mosques.
  18. Mosque committees should be in constant contact with the provincial government.
  19. Mosques committees must ensure that taraweeh will be conduct under these SOPs.
  20. If during Ramadan, government authorities feel that the situation has got out of control and the number of cases surge, the authorities can review the decisions taken.

Moreover, special precautions must be considered during Ramadan to stay healthy, like:

  • Never skip Suhoor (the mead eaten before dawn)
  • As possible as you can, stay indoors and order everything online.
  • Ensure plenty of sleep to feel fresh and active.
  • Break your fast with water. Plan your water intake and keep track of it.
  • Avoid heavy oils and fats in your meal.
  • Use fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods.
  • Avoid excessive use of cold beverages and sugary or salty drinks.
  • Use herbal tea or green tea instead of caffeine intake.

Effects of fasting on human body:

Remember, fasting itself has no risk of transmitting any disease, unlike public gathering. But the question is: Is Ramadan fasting healthful or not? Will the total abstinence from food and liquids, including water, lead to a health risk? Or is fasting safe, even for people with weakened immune system or serious medical conditions? What are precautions to stay safe from dehydration, exhaustion, heat stroke and most importantly the COVID-19 disease?

In the eyes of Muslim scholars today, fasting during Ramadan is obligatory and not fasting during Ramadan due to corona virus is not permissible. However, children, women who are pregnant, nursing, menstruating and people who are travelling or whose health conditions may be complicated by fasting, are allowed to skip fasting. Similarly those people who are facing Covid-19 symptoms and are not physically able, may not have to fast during Ramadan. As concern over the spread of corona virus grows, the government and religious authorities are encouraging people to do their daily five prayers at home. Children, old people and people with medical conditions are especially forced to worship at home, due to their weak immune system.

Till now, no medical research shows that fasting affect a person’s chances of contracting the corona virus. More recently, studies have shown that fasting can actually helps to boost the immune system. As there is lack of nutrients coming in, so fasting is thought to put the body into an “energy conservation mode”. During fasting, the body is in an effort to save energy and recycles many of its damaged or old immune cells. This leads to the generation of new and healthier immune cells. These new generated immune cells are more efficient at fighting infections which improves the overall immunity.

In conclusion, Ramadan 2020 is our first Ramadan during a corona virus pandemic, it is important to stick to the things that we do know work: hand-washing, social distancing, self-isolation and hygiene.

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