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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Spending my first Ramadan without family


DTH Photo Illustration. Traditionally Ramadan is celebrated with the community, friends, and people. However, this year many are celebrating it alone.

On Tuesday, Muslims around the world will begin fasting for the month of Ramadan. This is the second year the holy month will be celebrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of gathering as family and friends around meals or at the mosque, Ramadan will take place in quarantine again.

Ramadan is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and holds a significant spiritual meaning for Muslims. The month commemorates the revelation of the Quran and is celebrated by a month of daily fasts and prayer. During Ramadan, Muslims do not eat or drink during daylight hours and focus on furthering their spirituality. This month is also a time for self-reflection and community gathering.

Ramadan begins on April 13, and a lot has changed since last year — but masks, rising COVID-19 cases and general fear are still present. Some small gatherings will be allowed, unlike last year, but large community meals and prayer services are still off the table.

When I think of Ramadan, I recall waking up before sunrise and enjoying meals with my family. I think of the large iftars — meals eaten to break the daily fasts — I had with family and friends. I am reminded of the discipline required to abstain from earthly needs. I reflect on the importance of faith and prayer. 

This year, I am reflecting on what my second Ramadan in this pandemic will look like, away from family and the community that raised me. 

Community has had to take on another meaning during the pandemic. We don’t gather like we used to. You can’t feel the joy of shared meals or the power of religious services from a livestream or Zoom recording.

So, community has had to mean something else this year. For me, it’s knowing that millions of people around the world will be participating in the same religious and spiritual endeavor as I am. Amid a global pandemic, Muslims will continue to wake up before sunrise to eat, and wait until sunset before eating or drinking again. Challenges abound, but this month-long reset is still a time dedicated to faith. 

During Ramadan, I usually take time to turn inward and reflect spiritually, but this year I want to think broader. Instead of looking to further myself and my needs, I will reflect on my community and the ways I want us to grow together. This year, community has been on our radar more than usual. The pandemic has highlighted the different ways we struggle and live together. Beyond myself, I hope for growth, happiness and health for all those around me. 

In a year marked by loss, I will take time to reflect and be grateful for what I have gained and what’s to come. If this year taught me anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed, and surprises are always just around the corner. 

Ramadan is also a month dedicated to giving. One of Islam’s core beliefs is charity, and searching within one’s own community to support those in need. Taking time to extend charity, gratitude and appreciation is always helpful — now more than ever.

For many, this was a year that incited lots of self-reflection and personal growth. Ramadan is an opportunity each year to reflect and grow. Every Ramadan, I learn more about myself, my faith, and who I want to be in my community. This year is no different. I look forward to furthering my understanding of my faith and its practice. Additionally, I am going into Ramadan eager to reflect on ways I can be a better person for myself, and for others too. 

This will be my first year celebrating Ramadan without my family. I am equally nervous and excited. I can’t ask my mom to make my favorite food or go on a drive with my sister to make those last few hours go by a bit quicker. Like so many others this year, I’ve learned that change is a constant and can bring about something positive. I understand that sentiment even more so now. 

This Ramadan, I feel like I’m entering a new stage in my life, where my faith and practice are not just something I was born into — but something that becomes my own.


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