Ramadan is the 9th Month of the Islamic calendar. Observed by Muslims throughout the world. The Islamic (Hijri) calendar is lunar so each year it moves around 10 days compared to the Gregorian calendar. We wait for the sighting of the moon hence the days before Ramadan (and Eid) usually have a sense of expectation. This year Ramadan will be begin on the 24th of April.
Ramadan marks the month the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Mohammed and is a month of mercy, forgiveness, prayer and fasting. Healthy adult Muslims fast from the early morning prayer (Fajr) before sunrise until Magrib (sunset). This means no food or water all day. Those unable to fast will instead offer Fidyah – paying for meals for the needy instead.
We start the day with an early light breakfast (Suhoor) before the fast and end with iftar – a meal after sunset prayer. Usually at Belfast Islamic Centre (BIC) and in homes across the province, this meal is shared with family and friends. Over 150 people usually attend Belfast Islamic Centre. At night we pray Taraweh at the Mosque in congregation with a Hafiz (someone who has memorised Quran) leading prayers with beautiful Quranic recitations. Those who cannot attend the mosque pray at home.
This year will be very different. Our mosques have closed, there are no communal iftars, no gatherings with family and friends outside our households and no Taraweh. Even the two holy mosques in Mekkah and Madina will be empty.
Muslims are finding ways to adapt and make the most of Ramadan at home. In a digital age this means some have moved online with plans for talks, recitations and lectures planned for delivery via Facebook or Zoom. Attempting to bring the community together while apart.
Ramadan is also a time for charity. The donations we would usually receive for iftars at BIC will be spend on food packs and food delivery for those most in need. Others have organised various long-term charity projects to help others.
Perhaps this ‘pause’ on our typical Ramadan will help us focus on the true spirit of Ramadan. Our faith encourages to think about others and improve ourselves. We fast to help control our nafs (ego) and build self-control. We fast knowing come sunset our hunger and thirst will be satisfied. This reminds us many go to bed hungry and thirsty every day and of our obligation to help those in need. When we break our fast, we appreciate the little things we take for granted every day, even a simple sip of water.
We pray for a safe, fruitful and prosperous Month of Ramadan and ask that Allah (swt) will enable us to learn, grow and become better human beings during Ramadan so its blessings will spread beyond this sacred month.
Naomi Green is office manager at the Belfast Islamic Centre.
Our front picture is from 2004 when the Imam Mohamed Elrashidi welcomed children from St Joseph's Slate Street to the Mosque