IT may be Shakespeare’s birthday and St George’s Day, but April 23 this year also marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslim communities in the UK, writes Shazad Hussain.
Here the journalism student with the Redditch Standard tells of the impact Covid-19 will have on it.
With the coronavirus lockdown in force this year’s celebrations won’t be the same as previous years.
And with deaths from Covid-19 spiralling towards 20,000 plus the added commitments of Ramadan, Muslim frontline workers in the NHS will be sorely tested in this period.
Physiotherapist Sikander Shafique, 24, said: “It doesn’t feel like Ramadan this year because we can’t meet our relatives to have iftar meals together (the meal with which the daily fast is broken) at other households or have that yearly meet-up with friends.
“Mosques are closed. We’d usually all go to pray the Tarawih prayer at night with friends and families and that brought a feeling of community.
“I don’t typically work 12-hour shifts but with the virus, we’re all having to wear PPE and the masks can make your mouth very dry – which is an added challenge to a long fast.”
Even with the pressures of working in an environment where the risk of catching coronavirus is high, and on top of going without food and water for near 18 hours, Mr Shafique doesn’t see this year’s Ramadan as coming at the wrong time; rather as a help and not a hindrance.
He says, “Ramadan is a time to reflect and by working in an NHS hospital, I’ve seen how horrible this virus can be and how much suffering it can cause.
“So, this Ramadan gives us a chance to put life into perspective and pray for all those people as well as to appreciate our own family.”
International student Aradi Priyanto, 18 will be celebrating Ramadan on his own.
He will start and break his fasts by himself while his immediate family is 7,000 miles away on the other side of the world in Jakarta, Indonesia.
He said: “Ramadan is all about togetherness and family. For me, it’s about the special meals my nan makes for the extended family for when we break our fasts together, walking to the local mosque with family and friends, and I will miss those special moments.”
Although his course is set to finish in June, and the stresses of revising for exams have notched up a gear, he feels relaxed since classes are online and work is independent, the lack of commuting offers him more flexibility with his study schedule.
Adaptation will be vital for Muslim charity workers in particular whose activities, like walking up and down the high street collecting donations to help those in need, is no longer plausible.
However, one charity worker has revealed she won’t let the virus cause her to be inactive in her activism and will continue to raise funds for those who need help, now more than ever.
Charity worker Shamila Khan, 20, would normally be out doing street collections and organising sponsored walks, bakes and other events but not this year.
“This year will be very different as we can’t do as many events in the community and I’ll be sitting at home on my laptop and calling people and spreading awareness of our different campaigns,” said Shamila, who works for Muslim Hands.
“It’s a completely different role and totally opposite to what I normally do.”
This Ramadan will also be unique for new Muslims who have no-one in their family to share the Ramadan experience with.
Fitness Instructor Mikail Musa, 24, converted to Islam from Christianity two years ago and will be celebrating it at home with his Christian mother.
“One thing I loved about Ramadan was the brotherhood I felt of opening my fasts in the mosque with others and then standing in prayer with everyone during the night in worship and I felt at such peace.
“This year will be different but I’ll still have someone to open my fast with and I count that as a blessing that I’m not alone.
“My mum sets the alarm for when it’s time to begin my fast and even wakes me up when I’m feeling lazy to get out of bed so I can eat and pray.”
Ramadan is predicted to end on Saturday, May 23.
Eid al-Fitr, the celebration the day after Ramadan finishes is also likely to be cancelled due to coronavirus.