By Saadia Z. Yunus, LMFT
The days before the month of Ramadan are typically filled with nervous excitement as Muslims all over the globe prepare for our holy month of fasting. It is a month of reflection, God-consciousness, community and giving back to others. Although Muslims will be fasting this Ramadan just like any other year, it will undoubtedly be a completely different experience. Instead of planning community dinners and prayers, Muslim families will be focusing inward and trying to make the most of this month within the walls of their own homes due to the Covid-19 quarantine.
As I reflect on this month, my heart aches and my thoughts are on Muslims all over the world who are grieving the loss of normalcy during this blessed month. We are grieving what we normally look forward to and hold onto during this time of year. Entering into this month with the same expectations as we always have is not realistic.
A particular Ramadan gift that Muslims hold dear are the taraweeh prayers when hundreds (and more) of Muslims in each community gather in the masjid for nighttime prayers, standing side-by-side in unison, praying to the one God. With Covid-19 and the current quarantine, this will no longer be an integral part of this month. The sadness and feeling of loss in the Muslim community is immense. We not only miss our fellow Muslims who are celebrating with us, but we will miss the sense of praying together at the exact same time and place in a beautiful display of unity.
I realized earlier today that my heart was longing to send out a message to all of my fellow Muslims to comfort our hearts at this time. I then tweeted:
My hope in sharing these words was to provide comfort and a sense of direction for Muslims who are feeling lost at this time. Instead of focusing on what we will be missing, let’s focus on shifting our perspective to the opportunities this month will provide us. So many people have messaged me since my tweet with words of appreciation for acknowledging their pain and assuring them in refocusing on what truly matters: the true essence is this month.
Despite Covid-19 changing our lives in significant ways, Muslims all over the world and locally on Long Island are continuing to prepare for this blessed month by decorating their homes, purchasing dates to eat and setting personal and family goals to achieve. In addition to beautifying our homes, we are encouraged to beautify our inner selves by cleansing our hearts of greed and malice.
Long Island Muslims have been giving back during this challenging time by giving meals, supporting healthcare workers, donating masks and other good deeds that will continue throughout the month of Ramadan. Muslimahs of Long Island, along with other organizations such as LI Helpers, Long Island Halal Guide, Muslims of Long Island, ICNA Relief, MusCare and more are giving back in extraordinary ways.
We continue to lean into this inner purpose of service when the outside world is transforming before our eyes. With this shift in focus, we look forward to this month and step forward as a community with resilience and hope.