Our Community, Equality and Advocacy Lecturer Stephanie McDermott writes for RTE Brainstorm about the substantial impact the coronavirus outbreak is having on the rituals that surround Ramadan for Muslims in Ireland and worldwide.
Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! (God is Great, God is Great God is Great!). As Ramadan continues, the Muslim call to prayer will take on a different meaning for the 1.8 billion Muslims throughout the world this year. Ramadan is a period of devout prayer, fasting, offering charity and engagement with the community. During Ramadan, many Muslims abstain from eating and drinking between sunrise and sunset. It is one of the five pillars of Islam where Muslims seek forgiveness for sins and become closer to Allah.
For the Muslim community around the world, the outbreak of Covid-19 will have a substantial impact on the rituals that surround Ramadan. For example, the city of Mecca and the traditional pilgrimage (the Hajj) will not witness the hundreds of thousands of worshippers who usually descend on the Saudi Arabian city, the birthplace of Muhammad, for the final day of the fasting month of Ramadan.
For the 60,000 Muslims in Ireland, the month of observance will be reconfigured. The restriction on movement means that the traditional weeks of preparation beforehand are curtailed. Just like Christmas for the Christians, purchasing food, preparing special dishes and visiting family and friends are all part of the rituals that surround the holy month.
Christians visit churches at Christmastime, kneel at the crib, pray and sing together to celebrate the birth of Christ and the festivities that surround Christmas. Muslims celebrate the verbal revealing of the Quran (Islam’s Holy Book) from God to the Prophet Mohammed in 609 CE in a similar way. Christians celebrate the birth of Christ by taking holidays, meeting up with family and friends, exchanging gifts and donating to the less fortunate. At the end of Ramadan, there is the festival of Eid (festival of breaking the fast) when Muslims pray and eat together, share their food with friends and family and exchange gifts.