Ramadan 2020 during lockdown at the University of Portsmouth

The following letter to Muslim students was written by Dr Amra Bone.  The University Chaplaincy asked that we share it as widely as possible to help ensure it reaches its intended audience.

In the name of God, the most Merciful and the most Compassionate…

Assalama Alaikum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakatuhu (May peace and the Mercy and Blessings of God be upon you)

The blessed month of Ramadan will be upon us shortly. There has been a sense of loss at not being able to perform our daily Prayers (Salat) in congregation, especially Friday Prayers (Jumu’ah) and even more so for Ramadan; when praying, supplicating, eating and performing Dhikr together is awaited earnestly around the world. It is an opportunity we are anxious to take advantage of because we may not be alive or in good health for the following year.

The month of Ramadan is one of numerous blessings during which we make a concentrated effort to restrain our tongues, stomachs and sexual activity during the hours of fasting, in order to reach higher levels of spirituality through performing acts of prayer and reflection, helping our neighbours and the poor, showing hospitality and kindness to those around us and being grateful to our Maker and Sustainer. The following passage is found in the Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad:

O you who have attained to faith! Fasting is ordained for you as it was ordained for those before you, so that you might remain conscious of God: [fasting] during a certain number of days. But whoever of you is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days; and [in such cases] it is incumbent upon those who can afford it to make sacrifice by feeding a needy person. And whoever does more good than he is bound to do does good unto himself thereby; for to fast is to do good unto yourselves – if you but knew it.

It was the month of Ramadan in which the Qur’an was [first] bestowed from on high as a guidance unto man and a self-evident proof of that guidance, and as the standard by which to discern the true from the false. Hence, whoever of you lives to see this month shall fast throughout it; but he that is ill, or on a journey, [shall fast instead for the same] number of other days. God wills that you shall have ease, and does not will you to suffer hardship; but [He desires] that you complete the number [of days required], and that you extol God for His having guided you aright, and that you render your thanks [unto Him].

And if My servants ask thee about Me – behold, I am near; I respond to the call of him who calls, whenever he calls unto Me: let them, then, respond unto Me, and believe in Me, so that they might follow the right way.

Qur’an Ch 2 V 183-186

The above passage highlights the importance of the Qur’an which is revealed during this month (on the night of Power) a criterion and guidance for humanity. The Qur’an is also described as a healing, The Qur’an is recited profusely during this month from cover to cover in most mosques around the world as a healing for our aching souls. Many of us will be making efforts to learn and memorize the recitation accurately through correct tajweed.

This month is to bring about a sense of discipline in our bodies and souls, nearness to Al-Quddus, the Absolutely Pure, and the purification of our hearts which may have become obscured through the frenetic lives we live in the modern day.

Yet, verily, it is not their eyes that have become blind – but blind have become the hearts that are in their chests!

Qur’an Ch 22 V46

The prophet Muhammad peace be upon him would often supplicate, ‘Show me the reality of things as they (truly) are.’ One of our aims in fasting is to purify our hearts so that we are able to see things as they truly are. So that our senses are not clogged with hate, grudges, self-indulgence or the fulfilment of desires.

The effects of this month should last us for a long time, however the Arabic word for human is Insaan and one of its literal meanings is to forget. We forget what we learnt in the previous Ramadan and become lazy, but our soul yearns for those feelings again and here we are eagerly looking forward to another Ramadan.

Any worries we have about not being able to perform prayers together during this period of lockdown, should be assuaged by remembering that God is Merciful and does not put a burden on us that is beyond our ability to bear it. Anything that is beyond our control is not in our hands and we will be rewarded for making our efforts and for our good intentions insha-allah. Many of you will be able to pray together with your families or your house mates but even if you are on your own, God is with you as we are told; God is closer to us than our jugular veins. We have the ability to make a closer connection with As-Salam, the Giver of Peace, whether we are in congregation or on our own. I pray that we are able to get as much as possible out of this Ramadan and that it will bring us as close to our Creator as we desire and that He will forgive us any mistakes that we may have committed knowingly or unknowingly and keep us safe and healthy  from all deadly diseases including Covid-19.

The British Board of Scholars and Imams provides Ramadan guidance in their most recent article produced on the 21st April 2020: RAMADAN IN THE ERA OF COVID-19 BBSI GUIDANCE FOR RAMADAN | BBSIG-05 2020/1441 H

For a Ramadan timetable you can go to this website.  Note you can choose a different city if you are not in Portsmouth and you can change the method of calculation and the Madhab for Asr calculations by clicking on the settings symbol next to city search bar.

Finally, if you are concerned with the debates and discussions over moonsighting or the length of the days for fasting in the UK, a summary of scholarly opinions has also been provided by the BBSI.

If you require any further information or would like to discuss anything about Ramadan, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email: amra.bone@port.ac.uk

~ Dr Amra Bone

Assistant Librarian (Promotions) at the University Library. An enthusiastic advocate of libraries, diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice for all, inside and outside the workplace.

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