The holy month during the coronavirus has brought me back to the original purpose behind Ramadan — reflection.
COVID-19 has battered our lifestyle and has turned almost every aspect of our lives upside down from going for a walk to travelling overseas. Amidst the hype on whether the pandemic was a conspiracy, whether the world would be able to find a vaccine in time and whether we would be able to fully eradicate the virus, the most important month of the Islamic calendar came knocking — Ramadan.
Naturally, as a Muslim, I always expect this month because it’s considered as the holiest month of the year, where blessings for good deeds are multifold, where your repentance is accepted so much so that all your sins will be forgiven if you as a Muslim truly repent for your sins. This is also the month where more than a billion Muslims give in charity to the poor because of the spiritual rewards during this month among many other aspects.
If not for the pandemic, the usual Ramadan routine would be something like this: I would wake up before dawn and have my pre-dawn meal called suhoor and then I would go on to pray the first prayer for the day which is called Fajr or the morning prayer (and would go on to pray 4 more times as it is an obligation for all Muslims throughout the year, not just Ramadan). Most of the day, I would spend reading the Quran and listening to lectures on Islam.
Once the clock hits 5 pm, I would go to the nearest mosque for a communal iftar (dinner) where I’ll break my fast after sunset.
After that, the nightly prayers commence at around 9 pm and for the next hour, a massive congregation leaves the mosques packed with the faithful.
This routine would go on for a lunar month and it would end with the celebration of Eid-Ul-Fitr, where more than a billion Muslims would show their gratitude by reflecting over the sacrifices they made during Ramadan and be thankful for whatever Allah (God) has blessed them with.
This Ramadan was a surprise for Muslims worldwide, including me. When the month started, I started to miss what I considered to be essentials during Ramadan — communal iftars, congregational prayers, and meeting my Ramadan friends, who I get to spend my time more with during the holy month. All of which were non-existent during this Ramadan, and it was quite a tough pill to swallow.
However, during the month of Ramadan, I realised the essence of this month and decided to research into what Ramadan actually meant.
It is not about food, it’s about God-consciousness
It’s not all about food, it’s more about fasting as a way to get closer to Allah (God) by following His commandments. The Quran clearly states that “fasting has been prescribed upon you just like it was prescribed to nations before you so that you may attain become righteous”, so this is a method to get closer to God. In that spiritual process, hunger is not much of a concern (until you break your fast, that is). But if a person is preoccupied with religious deeds, it’s less likely that he or she will consider hunger as a primary concern.
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous — The Holy Quran, 2:183
During this pandemic, the world saw empty shelves on supermarkets, with people hoarding for food and other basic necessities. The Prophet (SAW), however, warned against such overstocking saying that: “Whoever hoards food away from the Muslims, Allah will afflict him with leprosy and poverty.” and that “whoever hoards food is a sinner.”
It’s about self-control, not self-indulgence
Often times, food is overemphasised during Ramadan and seems daunting for non-Muslims to think that one can abstain from food for long hours. Even among some Muslims, the focus of Ramadan shifts from self-control to self-indulgence because in their mind they are already deciding what to have for the upcoming Iftar more than reflecting on their past and focusing on improving their future.
And at a time where people are hoarding supermarkets overstocking basic necessities without thinking about the marginalised and the poor, one ought to be thankful for the blessings that Allah (God) has granted the fortunate people.
It’s about reflection
Which brings me to my final point, reflection. Many including myself during this lockdown, were actually given the time to reflect on our past actions and how we went about our lives — whether it was in the pursuit of a career, a university application, or any other pursuit for that matter. In the process, we have forgotten the purpose of this life — which is to be conscious of Allah in everything we do and everywhere we go.
Due to the fast-paced world that we are currently residing in, we often forget ourselves and “go with the flow”, directionless. As Muslims, we believe that all diseases are caused by Allah which serves as a test to humanity — perhaps to ponder over their purpose in this world and to seek refuge in Him.
Allah asks mankind ‘Then do they not reflect upon the Qur’an, or are there locks upon their hearts?’ — The Holy Quran, 47:24
I think this verse summaries the whole purpose of the month which is to ponder, to reflect over one’s actions, whether they are ordinary people, or the powerful — under whom the world has suffered immense oppression, poverty and many more catastrophic consequences.
The coronavirus has shut the doors of the world and opened the doors of reflection and we direly, need to reflect on our past, on ourselves as an individual as well as a member of the community at large.