Friday, May 22, 2020

Apr 22 20, 7:59 pm

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Ramadan in time of COVID-19

by | EDITOR’S CHOICE

Apr. 22, 20 | 7:59 pm

The tradition of Ramadan will be modified in various aspects this year, with the UAE and Muslim countries around the world implementing social distancing measures amid the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Also referred to as the Holy Month, Ramadan is a period for Muslims to reflect on their faith and strengthen their closeness with Allah. During this month, Muslim people go on lengthy fasting, read the Quran, perform group tarawih prayers with their fellow brethren at a mosque, as well as increase their charity work for those in need.

This year, the Holy Month will be changed in many ways due to the spread of COVID-19. However, while the UAE has implemented new regulations that will affect Islamic traditions, it has also assured when stripped down to their essence, Ramadan will remain the same.

‘In solidarity with Muslim brothers and sisters’

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn Quintana

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn Quintana has called on Filipinos to remember the value of “pakikisama at pakikipag-kapwa” during the Holy Month of Ramadan, adding that these cultural values strengthen the brotherhood between Filipinos and people of different faiths.

“Pakikisama at pakikipag-kapwa made us stay home to protect our frontliners as they battle with the pandemic. And during the holy month of Ramadan, pakikisama at pakikipag-kapwa will make us be one with the Muslim community as we all reflect on the common humanity that binds us together amidst this challenge of our times. We will all heal as one,” she said.

Consul General Paul Raymond Cortes has also asked the Filipino community to commemorate the holy month as a reminder of our humanity, as well as the world’s capacity and capability to rise above the challenges—especially during this global crisis.

“Humanity had previously faced similar or even more challenging crisis in the past and as our generation is here to reflect upon the lessons of the past, we are also tasked to lay down a stronger foundation for the generations after us,” he said.

He also said that the community stands in solidarity with its Muslim brothers and sisters during this holy period.

“Ramadan Kareem! Know that the Filipino community will always stand side by side the rest of the multicultural and cross denominational communities in the UAE. We are one with our Muslim brothers and sisters as we commemorate the holy month of Ramadan.”

Be mindful of Ramadan practices

Consul General Paul Raymond Cortes

The Consul General has also called on Filipinos to be mindful of the dos and don’ts during Ramadan, and to show respect to everyone living in the UAE—which they consider as their second home.

“For many, the UAE has been their second home for quite a number of years and are very knowledgeable as to what cannot be done during this holy period. Just as we hope that others respect our religious beliefs and practices, so to should we be more sensitive to our brothers and sisters as they prepare themselves for this holy month,” he said.

Fasting reminders

One of the major things being observed during Ramadan, and also one of five pillars of Islam, is the practice of fasting—wherein Muslims do not eat or drink anything between and maghrib prayers (at dawn and sunset).

Every year, around 1.8 billion Muslims in over 200 countries around the world—including the UAE—fast daily during this Holy Month. Those who are exempted from fasting include children, sick people, travelers, pregnant women, nursing mothers, or women in their periods.

In the time of COVID-19, Muslims who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or are under self-quarantine are among those considered as ‘sick’ – thus, they will also be exempted to fast in order to speed up their recovery process. Health workers are also not required to fast in this year’s Ramadan.

Changes on iftar

Muslims will only get to break their fast after doing their prayers for the day, through a meal known as iftar (which means ‘breaking the fast’). And, before the sun rises, they eat again through a meal referred to as suhoor before fasting for the entire day. The cycle then continues—making iftar and suhoor one of Ramadan’s biggest staples.

During Ramadan, a lot of Muslims in the UAE gather at villas, as well as various establishments, hotels, and mosques that set up Ramadan tents to offer free meals. People gather at these tents after fasting to bond with their loved ones as they enjoy shisha and free food.

However, due to the current social distancing measures, mosques and establishments will not set up tents to give iftar for the Muslims. This year, charity groups will instead be delivering iftar to the homes of those in need.

In addition, families who do not live in the same house will not be able to see and visit each other during iftar as the UAE currently prohibits any type of gatherings—even at home.

Mosques closed

One of the biggest changes in Ramadan this year is the absence of mosques, since the UAE has closed all places of worship as part of the government’s preventive measures against COVID-19. During the Holy Month, mosques all over the country are filled with worshippers, many of them spilling out on the streets.

The mosques have been closed since March 15 to carry out the disinfection operation of the mosque and its facilities. This is to ensure the well-being and safety of Emiratis, residents and visitors.

One of the biggest mosques to have been temporarily shut down is the famous Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre (SZGMC). “This comes within the preventive efforts and measures taken by public institutions across the UAE to counter coronavirus,” the SZGMC said on its social media post.

Outside the country, this new change is also felt. For instance, Saudi Arabia has cancelled Umrah—an important pilgrimage in Makkah—to prevent the spread of the disease. Commercial passenger flights in and out of Saudi and the UAE, in addition, have also been suspended.

This leaves Muslims one choice: to do their prayers at home. Currently, the government has yet to announce any online service for the faithful to do their prayers.

How will Filipino-Muslims adjust

Wafa Kasimieh from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD)of Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Islamic Culture

According to Wafa Kasimieh from the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department (IACAD) of Mohammed Bin Rashid Centre for Islamic Culture, the changes surrounding this year’s Ramadan will bring about a tough challenge yet a unique experience for Muslims in the UAE.

However, she said that this will present an opportunity to for Muslims to further exercise discipline of the soul and mind.

“This is undoubtedly some of the most difficult times to go through. The severity of this virus’ effect of our community is unprecedented. However, we must attempt to see the wisdom behind the presented situation. God has given us time to reflect and reassess our priorities. He reminds us that our time on earth is temporary; however, our deeds are eternalized. Have we become the individuals that we always hoped to be? Have we strayed off our paths? Be kind and be safe,” she said.

Kasimieh added that the UAE government has maintained its determination to execute all of the programs that have been planned for Ramadan, albeit with a few modifications.

“Everything from charity, cultural and educational programs are all still underway. The only noticeable difference is the fact that most (if not all) these activities will be conducted online,” she said.

She also commended the UAE for its preventive measures to fight the pandemic, noting that Filipino-Muslims here are fortunate to be in one of the safest places on Earth today.

“The UAE government has taken the necessary measures to ensure everyone’s safety. This virus has taken the world by surprise and I am glad that we live in a country that was able to contain the spread before reaching alarming numbers,” she added.

Essence still the same

Kasimieh said that she is confident that the essence of the Holy Month will remain the same—especially in terms of its values and what it teaches the faithful.

“Ramadan does not require several ‘rituals’ for it to be done. I believe that Ramadan should be seen as a month that provides a ‘cleanse’ of the body, mind and soul,” she said.

Muslims will still get to practice piety as well as reflect on their faith—if not, better—especially now that the usual distractions have been eliminated. The streets will still be filled with festive lights, even if not a lot of people will get to see it because of the heightened restrictions.

Moreover, Muslims can still continue fasting if they feel healthy, as well as praying—albeit at home. The recitation of Quran will still be present, though people will have to resort to online means to help them with pronunciations as well as explanations of the verses.

Families can still get a chance to bond through frequent calls and video conferences if they want to keep the connection alive.

More importantly, the essence of unity and charity will remain unabated during Ramadan despite COVID-19 pandemic, especially now that a lot of people in the community have been struggling due to the economic impacts of the disease—including pay cuts, job losses, and unpaid leaves. There are a lot of ways being offered online on how residents can provide help to these people.

“That is what the essence of Ramadan is truly about. The renewing of a Muslim’s faith and re-establishing their connection with God,” said Kasimieh.

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It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 2.5 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

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