17 August 2022

It is said‘that with every difficulty there will be ease’(94 verses 5-6). Do use this valuable time in ibadah and also seize the opportunity to strengthen familial relations, writes Imam Dr. A. Rashied Omar.

Ramadan 2020 is going to be radically different, not least because we will not able to attend the popular nightly tarawih prayers, since our masajid will be closed for parts and perhaps all of this blessed month. We will be spending our time locked down in our homes as we heed the call by our President Cyril Ramaphosa and public health officials to practice physical distancing in an attempt to flatten the curve or slow the rate of transmission of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

In these distressing times, we should use this novel Ramadan 2020 experience of practicing physical distancing, as an opportune time to learn and nurture new forms of personal spirituality. We can make Ramadan 2020 truly memorable by engaging in and occupying our time with a number of spiritual practices and rituals in the sanctuaries of our homes, which in more normal circumstances, we may not have had time to do. This is also a good time to bond with those in our households – our spouses, our children, our parents, our siblings – and to use the opportunity to strengthen familial relations.

Fasting as Thanksgiving for the Revelation of the Qur’an

One of the key purposes of fasting in Ramadan is to display deep gratitude for receiving Divine guidance in the form of the revelation of the Glorious Qur`an (Surah al-Baqarah, 2:185). Traditionally, the evening congregational tarawih prayers have always been an opportunity to celebrate the Qur’an by listening to recitals of the Qur’an and exult in the Glory of Allah’s message.

Without nightly tarawih prayers to look forward to, we should adorn our lives and our homes with the recitation of the Qur’an. In doing so we may also discover the Qur’an as a great source of shifa’ i.e. healing (Surah al-Najm, 17: 82). We may also choose to recite the Qur’an together as a family immediately after praying `isha’ together and/or to listen to excellent recitations of the entire Qur’an by some of the leading Qurra globally and on our local Muslim community Radio stations.

The Tarawih Prayers

It is perfectly permissible to perform our tarawih prayers with our families at home especially if someone in the family is a hafiz al-Qur’an. However, since the tarawih prayers are not obligatory but recommended (sunnah), some Muslim scholars have proposed that we may choose to perform 20 raka`at or 8 raka`at.

But since this is an extra-ordinary Ramadan, spent under lockdown at home, it might be an ideal opportunity to implement one of the most important sunnahsalahs, namely that of the night vigil prayer (qiyam al-layl). The preferred time to perform this would be in the middle of the night after you have had some sleep.

This celebrated sunnahsalah is referenced in several verses of the Qur’an (17:79, 25:64 and 73:1-4). It is also mentioned in an authentic hadith tradition in which the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is reported to have proclaimed that after the obligatory five daily salawat the prayer in the middle of the night is unequalled (Sahih Muslim). So, this Ramadan, we could all try to perform the night vigil prayer (qiyam al-layl) in our homes, if not every night, then perhaps twice a week. The night vigil prayer may consist of 2, 4, 6 or 8 raka`at and one should recite generous portions of the Qur’an and perform it with khushu’ i.e. with sincere devotion and full reverence and with our minds and hearts fully present.

Sustaining Hope and Gratitude in the Midst of Adversity

During this blessed month in which we celebrate the revelation of the Glorious Qur’an, we need to remind ourselves that there are many Qur’anic passages that exhort Muslims to turn to Allah in hope in times of difficulty. We may find great solace in Allah’s promise in Surah al-Inshirah, chapter 94 verses 5-6 ‘that after difficulty there will be ease’.At this sacred time of Ramadan, we should also adorn our fasting by acknowledging and showing gratitude to the many health professionals within our country and the world who are unselfishly serving on the frontline of the fight to save lives. We are grateful for their sacrifices and pray that Allah, the Source of All-Healing, will keep them safe and healthy.  

In conclusion, during this unprecedented Ramadan experience under lockdown, let us keep in our supplication all those who have lost their lives to the Coronavirus (Covid19), those who are ill, and those who face months of hardships due to food insecurity and loss of incomes. Let us also not let the physical distance keep us isolated from others – use the phone and other devices to reach out and keep in touch with our families, our friends and our neighbours.

Ramadan Karim wa Mubarak

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