Coronavirus: Preparing for a Ramadan under lockdown

Image source, Kiran Rahim

For Dr Kiran Rahim this year's Ramadan will be like no other as she spends hours behind a hot mask on an intensive care ward treating people suffering from Covid-19.

Normally the paediatric registrar would take her children to her mother's house where the family would eat together or head out into the city to meet some girlfriends at a restaurant for their Iftar - the ritual fast-breaking meal.

This year she will be returning home from Homerton University Hospital, in north-east London, to her husband and their two boys, six and three, exhausted - even on the days when she cannot fast because of the intensity of her work.

The month of Ramadan, which this year begins on Thursday evening, is considered the holiest of months in the Islamic calendar and normally sees Muslims fast by not eating or drinking during daylight hours as well as being a time for prayer and reflection.

"Many like me are choosing not to fast when we are working in the ITU (Intensive Therapy Unit)," Dr Rahim says.

"It is tough in that PPE (personal protective equipment), you can only go one or two hours at a time before you have to take it off and take a drink."

Image source, Kiran Rahim

Image caption,

Dr Rahin says celebrations for Eid will also be very different this year

She said colleagues in the British Islamic Medical Association had sought advice from scholars who had said there could be an exemption for those working in such an intense and vital role.

"It is a relief but it is also really sad because the fast is something I want to do," she says.

For others in the medical profession breaking their fast will be done alone on a break in their 12-hour shift in stark contrast to times which have gone before.

Any chance of taking a holiday during Ramadan, as some do, also went out of the window when the lockdown began.

And with restrictions set to remain in place until at least 7 May, Dr Rahim, 33, said she thought it was unlikely that Eid al-fatir, which comes at the end of Ramadan, would be able to be celebrated in the usual way.

"Ramadan can be very hard but you have Eid to look forward to," she says. "I am not sure we will be able to celebrate Eid this year."

While things may be tough she says the current situation could help to put things in perspective during a time of spiritual reflection.

"It will be different but perhaps in many ways it will be a more sincere Ramadan. We are living through what we might call hell on earth but most of us are fortunate enough to still be able to do what we want to do. We can still put food on the table. There will be many people without jobs or who are struggling to keep a roof over themselves."

The Muslim Council of Britain has warned people that it will be "a very different experience" and advised worshippers to stay at home.

With the mosques closed, families separated, sometimes even in their own houses, Muslims will not be able to break fast and pray together - an important part of Ramadan.

But there are also positives as in the spirit of Ramadan, which calls for community and charity, Muslims seek to help those in need in their areas.

In Stanmore, north-west London, the Hujjat Mosque is running an Iftar on wheels delivery service to provide more than 150 households with meals throughout Ramadan with volunteers helping donate supplies and deliver the food while restaurants in the community take on the catering duties.

"I think we are seeing the best in people," says Asim Nurmohamed, one of the executive at the mosque, "I think 200 volunteers in 48 hours is pretty incredible.

"Normally we would feed 1,500 people at our centre over the month and some people really rely on it."

The hope is to reach about 200 households every night of Ramadan, with about 1,000 people, registering their interest.

The centre has also been given over to Harrow Council to use for distributing food to those in need with donations coming in from the community, Mr Nurmohamed said.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Normally Muslims would come together with people of other faiths to share food and celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan

Like many mosques Hujjat has been streaming talks and classes in the build up to Ramadan and will continue to do so throughout the month.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (AMYA), a UK Muslim youth charity, has held online fitness classes as well as social activities and prayers but will also be seeking to reach out to the wider community during Ramadan.

Abdul Lodhi, director of charities and welfare at AMYA, said there would normally be large meals which members of the wider community are invited to to learn about Ramadan and Islam but instead they were looking to get people involved online.

"One thing we thought could really help at the moment with all this uncertainty around is the lessons you learn from fasting and how they can be applied to the lockdown situation," Mr Lodhi, who lives in east Cheshire in Lancashire, said.

"It is a very similar state to when you are fasting. It is not just about starving, there is much more to it. You are not meant to use unnecessary speech, to use foul language, watch television.

"You do get frustrated and you do have to bite your tongue at times. Everyone knows how annoyed you can get when you are hungry.

"I think that resilience is something people can really relate to and use at the moment."

Image source, Sabah Ahmedi

Image caption,

Imam Sabah Ahmedi is urging everyone to stay home during Ramadan

London-based imam Sabah Ahmedi, 26, said Ramadan would be tough for worshippers with congregational worship not a possibility in real life but that he would be taking to Instagram for classes and prayers.

"Ramadan is all about upping your spirituality and nearness to God and we all have more time to reflect and grow this year," he says.

But the most important message is that everyone should stay home and not try to visit family or go to their mosque, which will be closed, he adds.