Each year, I look forward to celebrating Ramadan, the month of self reflection, prayer, and fasting for Muslims all over the world. This year, April 24 marks the start of Ramadan. It is the month in which Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) received the first revelation from God, which eventually became the Qur'an, the holy book from Muslims.
Ramadan is meant to be a time of reflection of one's relationship with God, prayers, intense study of the Qur'an, and increased charity and generosity. During the entire month, Muslims are expected to fast every day from dawn to sunset and are encouraged to cut negative thoughts and emotions.
The practice of fasting serves many purposes: to remind you of your reliance on God for sustenance, to show you what it feels like to be hungry and thirsty (so you feel compassion and a duty to help those who are in need), and to reduce the distractions in life so you can focus on your relationship with God.
As an American Muslim teen, my family and I always look forward to Ramadan; yet we know it will be different this year. This year, there will be no more trips to my local mosque, there will be no iftar (fast-breaking) meals with friends and family, and there will be no communal meetings for Ramadan prayers.
This holy month encourages social gathering, and currently, that is not possible because of the spread of COVID-19. As COVID-19 cases and deaths climb, the course of the observance of this month has changed.
However, while I may not be able to observe this Ramadan as I normally do, this does not mean that I still cannot carry out the true underlying essence of Ramadan. Ramadan is all about practicing self control, empathy, and charity, thus in these difficult conditions, there could not be a better time than this to demonstrate these characteristics.
In these past unprecedented weeks of isolation, I've seen humanity suffer drastically, from deaths around the globe to the impacts of stay at home orders on small businesses and people earning daily wages. I've also seen how the pandemic's upheaval is intensifying the pain of those living in abusive homes.
As the scope of the pandemic becomes worse and our daily lives are increasingly altered, the need for us to act heroically with empathy is ever present. Therefore, as Ramadan draws near, I want to carry the true spirit of this month by showing concern for humanity.
To help me achieve this goal, I remind myself of a saying of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him), which states; "None among you is a true believer unless he loves for others what he loves for himself."
This saying reminds me that in these troublesome times, I should show concern for those who are vulnerable. Regardless of beliefs, we should carry out the spirit of Ramadan by considering those in need, whether that be through checking on neighbors, supporting local businesses, or just simply staying home to help reduce the spread of the virus.
These are but a few small examples. However, what is important is that we look for opportunities to demonstrate empathy and kindness, and act on them. Crisis can bring out the worst in human nature, yet it can bring out the best too. Regardless of beliefs, let us carry the spirit of Ramadan to consider those in need. Let us look out for our friends, family, and humanity at large, so that we can make it through this together.