A childhood memory, that I hold very dear; sounds, scents and sights of Ramadan. Every year, when the holy month rolls over, there is a distinct shift in the air; it is almost unexplainable and indescribable. What I know is, this time of the year, back when I was juggling school and the many activities in between, gave me an utmost lift and innate joy.
As an adult, whenever Ramadan comes around, there is nothing more that I look forward to, than seeing people congregate and connect. No matter which part strata of the society one belongs to, the connection is real and energy, absolutely surreal.
This year, however, things shifted for the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims. The air of celebration with rituals, prayers and festivities cannot be felt as much, as we are confined in our own homes.
Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, self-improvement, heightened devotion and worship. Muslims all over the world fast during daylight hours, congregate for prayers and share meals as a community. When the first day of this holy month rolls over, in many parts of the world, we see the underprivileged come to mosques in large numbers when the call to prayer rings out at sunset. Perhaps, their only meal for the day will be served. This will carry on for the whole month of Ramadan. While the poor feel extremely blessed to have food on their table, those who are able, use the holy month as a grail to collect as many spiritual rewards, if you like, to ensure a smooth-sailing journey in this and the next life.
As the pandemic takes over and global confinement ensues, philanthropists and charity-doers need to think of alternatives to reach out to those in need. Many turn to their own community mosques while others turn to creative means like setting up social media pages and rally in others who wish to help as well.
Seasonal businesses we usually see emerging during this festive period, suffer. The many consignments ordered and preparations made since the last quarter of 2019, went down the drain. Sellers are stuck with their stocks and wares, losing money every step of the way. We see Facebook pages of online Ramadan bazaars surface in throngs. Sellers are onto their last resort to get rid of their wares. While this is a great initiative, the sales will not be as bankable as a physical bazaar. However, this has to be taken in their stride because one item sold is better than none at all.
Globally, Saudi, sees the worst hit. The holy Mecca, where pilgrims from all over the world congregate, now closed. Ramadan has been one of the most popular months for pilgrims when the smaller or lesser Haj, known as Umrah is performed. While the call to prayers from the Grand Mosque in the holy land is still loud and proud through this trying time, instead of calling people to come and pray, the Imam tells worshippers to worship in the comforts of their own homes. The image of an empty Mecca is one we never thought we will see. While this comes with a lot of sentiments and poignancy from many, shutting down the holy land at this point is the only way to help flatten the curve.
The beautiful month of Ramadan will be with us again next year but in order for that to happen, the current moment matters. As for now, let us just celebrate Ramadan in its purest essence of modesty and simplicity.