Ramadhan in the time of Corona

This one I was supposed to post just before Ramadhan, projecting how this month would be like. But I had to submit it somewhere before you saw it. So, sorry for being late. Ramadhan Mubarak.

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It’s the eve of Ramadhan. Gatherings on the look-out for the moon in spots like Mama Ngina drive are to be the first in many, spanning a month of bridging ties in the Muslim community. That evening, the calls start to come in with congratulations, the crescent has been spotted; it’s Ramadhan and the ambience changes. 6 months prior, Muslims had been in constant prayer to be delivered to the holy month to reap its reward through exercising great strains of patience by fasting, giving more to the needy, reconnecting; spiritually with their Lord and their community. That’s the joy of it.

The first fajr of Ramadhan is when it hits you. You rise early with enthusiasm, your blanket not as heavy. If you’re lucky, you wake up earlier for suhoor but that’s not a given on the first day. You find your way to the mosque, not a care of how chilly it is, meeting worshippers; all smiling and you pass congratulations for making it. You arrive at the mosque and it feels like jum’a, the usual two lines quadrupled. In Ramadhan, the shaitan is believed to be locked up. If you’re not in the mosque for prayer, that’s on you.

Looks like the shaitan aren’t the only ones who’ll be locked up this Ramadhan.

With the world on the verge of the COVID-19 pandemic and projected death tolls for Africa put at 300,000, it has become critical that we break social rituals and isolate, turning this into a rather unprecedented Ramadhan experience. Cancel the spirit of togetherness this year. Our survival depends on it.

Iftar in Masjid An-Nabawi, the grand mosque of the prophet will be suspended this year due to precautionary corona measures and the congregational supererogatory tarawih prayers do the same in the Haram, Makkah as the rest of the world follows suit. These two make a huge part of Ramadhan which begs the question, is Ramadhan Ramadhan without these gatherings?

Togetherness is a huge aspect of Ramadhan. We depend on gatherings to nourish our souls, starved off of time with their Lord year through. It’s fascinating how a continuous state of hunger keeps you in a loop of His remembrance; making you grateful for His provisions; Reminding us of the poor and needy from us.

We gathered in mosques to listen to duruus; sermons, reminding us of our purpose that we’re often heedless. We gathered to break our fasts together, blurring the haves and the have-nots, strengthening the brotherhood between us. Strengthened further by the standing side by side in prayer into the night; the tarawih, tahajjud and i’tikaf in the final third of Ramadhan. In this holy month, we encouraged one another and competed in doing good. We knocked on our brothers’ doors when the time for prayer came. What’s left of that with the curfew enforced and social distancing put in place?

Food is a huge part of Ramadhan. The tables are usually decorated with varieties of ours and bowls from our neighbours. I imagine us not wanting our neighbours’ food containers in our houses this year because we can’t be too safe. And if the bowls are to come in, we won’t enjoy their food in our almost natural precautionary mode. All we see now are avenues of contracting the virus, like, “Did they sanitize?”

This Ramadhan is one to give life to our homes. It won’t be a communal affair, but a family one. A break from routine so we can help around more, get to know the people we live with, cook together maybe and pray for the world to be delivered out of this. For those who live alone, a time for reflection, just you and your Lord without the distraction of people. If that isn’t beautiful.

My heart, however, goes out to the reverts who have no one, and families used to reach out to them to strengthen them in faith because they are their people. Take heart.

This Ramadhan, we need to take care of our needy more than ever and recognize those whose livelihoods have been cut short. Don’t we need the reward of feeding a fasting person?

With the total lockdown some of us have imposed on ourselves, the days seem to have flatlined and every day is just every day. Only that we’re now fasting. Days get lazy with inactivity defeating the whole purpose of fasting. The joy that comes with the maghrib adhan and that of looking forward to Eid isn’t there. The kid attempting his first fast won’t have the feel of it.

In Ramadhan, the nights come alive, the towns bustling with people, the bases filled with stories as we transcend the night. This Ramadhan will be a quiet one… but when I picture how the end of this pandemic would be like, I’m reminded of those Ramadhan nights; the air full of life as we speak of experiences like this one, like a badge of honour; for survival. Of those corona days.

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Corona virus, Covid-19, Islam, Ramadhan


Hassan Kassim

Hassan Kassim is a Mombasa-based Creative non-fiction writer, recently longlisted for the Toyin Falola prize, blogger and translator of Kiswahili work. A beneficiary of the Penpen program by African Writers Development Trust(AWDT) commissioned by Culture at Work Africa and the European Union(E.U), and holds his Bachelor’s degree in Maritime Management. Hassan writes about the ill-documented Communities of Coastal Kenya. His work has appeared in Writers Space Africa; his 2 non-fiction stories published in the anthology 'Twaweza,' a collaborative effort of 12 African writers on the African identity and set to appear in the forthcoming anthology for the Toyin Falola prize.

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