Istanbul, mosque in Ramadan

Turkey begins its first Ramadan in quarantine for the coronavirus

Millions of Muslims worldwide will spend the first Ramadan in their history locked up at home due to coronavirus. Fasting in this month is one of the 5 pillars of Islam.

Millions of Muslims around the world and also in Turkey began their first day of fasting this Friday at the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan, a practice that constitutes one of the five pillars of Islam and that this year is marked by the pandemic of coronavirus, which has forced billions of people across the planet to remain under quarantine locked in their homes.

In the case of Turkey, Ramadan coincides with a 4-day curfew decreed by the government between Thursday and Sunday in the 30 largest cities in the country, precisely to prevent trips to other provinces to spend these dates with family and friends, thus increasing the number of infections.

The Ministry of the Interior issued a circular on April 23th with the measures that will be in force during Ramadan against the coronavirus, and which includes the prohibition to hold traditional outdoor meetings on the occasion of the iftar -the dinner after sunset to break the daily fast- in which hundreds or thousands of people normally gather outside.

The streets where these meetings are usually held may also be closed, and access to religious buildings such as mosques is restricted. In addition, precautions will be taken to ensure that social distance measures are maintained -including in cemeteries, where temperature will be taken to visitors- and the hours of sale of typical products such as pide are regulated to avoid crowds.

Fasting in Ramadan is one of the 5 basic pillars of Islam

Fasting during Ramadan is one of the basic principles of Islam that every practising Muslim should do. It is a month that has a quasi-festive character, very similar to Christmas days in Christendom, but also of reflection and introspection.

And contrary to the common belief in non-Muslim societies, Ramadan is not just fasting, not being able to drink, eat or smoke from sunrise to sunset -a way to empathise with those who suffer from hunger or difficulties- but it also includes other more important rules, such as not being able to do wrong in thought, word or deed (you cannot use violence or pronounce blasphemies or insults, for example). It is also not allowed to have sex during the fasting hours.

Because of that family spirit, brotherhood and good wishes for all that characterises Ramadan, meetings during the iftar to break the fast and share food with family, friends and neighbours are a tradition at this time; However, this year Muslims around the world will not be able to hold such gatherings, nor go to mosques to pray or listen to verses from the Quran, nor go out for tea or coffee after the evening call to prayer.

Instead, Muslims will have to spend this Ramadan in the privacy of their homes, sharing these days with their closest family, or even in many cases alone. That is why this year other ways to celebrate Ramadan are imposed worldwide, such as sharing moments through social media and online chat, celebrating the iftar in streaming with a webcam, or even reciting the traditional prayers of Taraweeh at home, with the help of videos or apps.

A Ramadan very different from others … but also very special

Ramadan this year will necessarily have to be different, but it can also be very special despite coronavirus forcing us to stay home in quarantine. Tradition says that Muhammad himself already spoke of the need to quarantine in one of his sayings (hadiths): “If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.”

In any case, since modesty and humility are a fundamental part of the teachings of Islam, the coronavirus quarantine is also an opportunity to apply those teachings in Ramadan, choosing to celebrate a more modest iftar and dedicate that money that we thought spending on food and expenses to help those most in need… something especially more necessary now than ever in these times of crisis and pandemic.