Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 2/4/2020 (235 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

This year Ramadan starts April 23 and runs for a month. If the pandemic restrictions are not lifted by then, this will be a very different Ramadan than most Canadian Muslims are used to.

During Ramadan Muslims try to come together to do the five daily prayers, or the special late-night prayers, at the mosque every night. We also gather with friends and family to break the fast at sunset. But this year these will all be cancelled.

As difficult as an adjustment it will be, we can adapt. We have a flexible faith. As Muslims, we do not need the mosque to connect with the Merciful Creator; we can pray anywhere clean. As families we can form our own little congregations and experience a quiet deep spiritual retreat within our homes.

And yet, I can’t help but think back to the decades my family spent enjoying the social connectedness, learnings and offering prayers at mosques during Ramadan.

These are the golden memories of three generations going to the mosque together in a small Honda. Sometimes we spent the whole night there offering prayers and sharing meals with other families. And of course there was the delicious tea that kept us up for the night prayers! Then going back home just before sunrise to rest and head out to work or school.

In the past few years, as my circumstances changed, I started doing the special night prayers during Ramadan at home. I found this the most soothing spiritual experience; it submerges my spirit in absolute silence to contemplate and reflect on the words of the Quran — words I recite in the darkness of the night, free from any social distraction.

This Ramadan the Muslim community will not experience the hustle and bustle of communal celebration. But we all still can, in this most sacred month of the Islamic calendar, remember that it is a time of fasting to develop self-discipline and empathy for those living in hunger and thirst.

Alone with our families or by ourselves, it can especially remind us of all those we miss, to be extra charitable, to be in a consistent state of repentance, avoiding anger, gossip, slander and hurting people with our tongues and hand.

This Ramadan, when we are social distancing, can also be a way to enjoy our families and reconnect with them in new online ways, mending fences, forgiving and seeking forgiveness.

And since the Quran stresses over and over to honour and serve one's parents, we should make an extra effort to reach out to them and all who are in nursing homes. Those who are blessed

to live in intergenerational families, please cherish this time to learn about the life experiences and resiliency of the human spirit.

In the spirit of Ramadan, let’s also remember here in Canada our fridges are full and our freezers packed, our children are sleeping with full stomachs, we have gadgets to keep them busy, and rooms to retire in to be alone. Let us also have mercy for the homeless, here and around the world. This includes those living in refugee camps, far from their homes. Let us continue to hold the underprivileged and the poor of this world in our hearts.

And let’s also remember to say special prayers for the frontline health workers and other essential service providers and their families. They are endangering their lives so we can be safe.

So even though we can’t observe Ramadan in the usual way this year, it is still a special time to reflect and learn, connect and forgive, and seek forgiveness. We have as a human collective walked on this earth with arrogance, waged wars, and corrupted and polluted our environment. As we witness today how the pandemic has brought the world to its knees, we must seek out divine mercy in the utter abandonment of our ego.

Ramadan Mubarak!

Shahina Siddiqui is the founder and executive director of the Islamic Social Services Association in Winnipeg

faith@freepress.mb.ca