I’ve decided to take my own advice and have started walking to relieve stress. This means I can’t take the cares of my immediate world with me. Instead, I am thinking about bigger things, and recently, I couldn’t get my Muslim brothers and sisters out of my mind. Why them and why now?
Well, it is Ramadan, the holiest month of the year for Muslims. Christians, Jews, and Hindus have a variety of holy days and seasons that spread throughout the year, but for Muslims, this month is the month.
This is the month it is believed the Quran was given to Muhammad, their prophet. This is the month wherein sawm (fasting from sunrise to sunset), one of the five pillars of Islamic faith, is practiced. This is the month that zakat (charitable giving), another of the five pillars, is often realized. This is the month of purposeful gathering for prayers and fast-breaking celebrations. This is the month.
Christians have recently had to celebrate Holy Week and Easter in non-conventional ways, as well as Jews celebrating Passover. So, why does it matter to me that Muslims are having to celebrate Ramadan in unconventional ways too?
It matters to me because it matters to all of us. If we have never known it before, we know it now – we are connected to the person half-way across the world just like we are to the neighbor next door. COVID-19 does not know the separations of wealth, culture, age, or faith adherence. It treats each non-discriminately. It is showing us what matters to one, must matter to another.
The fact that our Muslim friends are having a convoluted Ramadan doesn’t mean it will be less holy, but it does mean that something which used to be spiritually and emotionally grounding through the familiarity of practice is now not quite so. It means that they, who already feel the stress of all that “safer at home” brings, also have the added stress of how to live this month, the month, in a way that brings them strength and wholeness.
I will miss the nights I would have joined my friends in evening prayers and fast breaking. And even though I am not with them, I will be praying for them. Because this time is important to them, it is important to me!
We are one people and the sooner we accept the miracle of that, the better off we will all be.