Ramadan Under Lockdown: Muslims in Europe Prepare for Online Prayers and Virtual Gatherings

Written by | Friday, April 24th, 2020

The holiest month on the Islamic calendar has just started, but coronavirus containment measures mean Muslims in Europe are having to adapt their traditions to life under current lockdown. Families, mosques and governments have been preparing to take Ramadan online, which includes notably the important family tradition of breaking of the fast being done virtually using videoconference tools. In London, for example, the Ramadan Tent Project is now organising “Open Iftars” („break of a fast“) online to keep the tradition alive despite the context. “There has been a real drive across the world, particularly spiritually, within mosques and Islamic centres, to make sure that they put as many of their services online as possible,” says Zainab Gulamali, spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain, adding that organisations should be commended for helping people make the most of Ramadan whilst under lockdown.
Gulamali also says that Muslims are being creative and setting up online Iftars on a variety of subjects. “There will be people sitting around the laptop on Zoom breaking their fast together and then having a discussion about different things – from sustainability to writing groups, having Iftars whilst doing some work – and also lots of games and sessions organised for children, who would usually be spending time in the mosque together,” she said. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) also recommends that the community prepars menus in advance to limit shopping trips and thus maintain social distancing. The MCB also stresses the importance of looking after your mental health: “Life can be full, and we try to fill it with more worship during Ramadan. We all want to pray more and this can help with anxiety but it is important to be good to yourself – sometimes it is quality over quantity”.
Meanwhile in Belgium, the Great Mosque of Brussels would normally be a hive of activity for the country’s Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan, but amid a coronavirus lockdown, they will break the day-long fast in isolation. With measures in place until at least 3 May, mosques will be empty, but imams will record sermons to be broadcast to the community. “We have asked the Muslim community to respect the rules of confinement, to protect citizens, to protect themselves and also our country,” said Salah Echallaoui, vice president of the Executive of the Muslims of Belgium. The country’s Muslims who work on the frontlines of the battle against coronavirus, particulary in hospitals, will not be expected to observe strict fasting rules, in order to best serve the community to beat the pandemic. “This year will, unfortunately, be a little different due to the confinement measures we must respect to avoid spreading the virus,” he said.

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