By Dr. Amina Nawaz
A postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Islamic Theology at the University of Tübingen, Dr. Nawaz specializes in early modern Mediterranean History.
Tübingen - This year, Lent, Passover and Ramadan all began in quick succession. Each of us embarked on our sacred fasts with a keen awareness of the strange times in which we find ourselves. And yet it is precisely because of our holidays, that we recall the many times in our sacred histories that these seasons of fasting hearken to times of intense trial, sacrifice, death and rebirth. Perhaps this year, unlike many others, we will be able to feel new resonances from these ancient rituals and draw strength from our solidarity.
Similar to Lent, Easter and Passover, Ramadan is a season for community, generous hospitality and charity, deep reflection, prayer and renewal. This Ramadan, we have a unique opportunity to engage in many aspects of the season that often get subsumed in the usual runaround of daily life and evening gatherings full of family and friends eating, laughing and praying together. Stationed in our homes, we will be forced to sit with ourselves and observe and hear what flows up and out of our hearts. Many of us who have the privilege to work from home will have cherished time with children, to tell stories, write songs and make crafts that celebrate the symbols of the season. With our high streets and shops still mostly closed, we have the rarest of opportunities in our lifetime — to fast from our rampant consumerism and consumption. Without large dinner gatherings to plan for, we can take this chance to focus on the often-overshadowed dimension of generosity, that of humble simplicity.
Most of all, we have a chance, unlike so many previous Ramadan years, to feel with visceral clarity the reality that so many of our brothers and sisters around the world face daily, regardless of the coronavirus quarantine. This year, as we sit in our own largely self-enforced lockdowns, we can be ever mindful of Uyghur, Kashmiri, Rohingya Muslims and many others for whom lockdown is not simply an inconvenience, but a living nightmare, one that we would be too scared to even dream. Let us ensure that this Ramadan, every time we feel the need to complain about our circumstances, we hold our tongue and turn instead to prayer for those whose needs are far greater than our own.
If Ramadan is “peak season” for charity in Islam, then this year, with a heightened awareness of the inequalities in our societies that this crisis has revealed, let us give with unbridled generosity. In helping our neighbours, tending to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged among our communities, and donating whatever we can to charities working on the frontlines of this crisis, including those tackling homelessness, medical and care needs, and loneliness and isolation, we can ensure the well-being of every member of our society. Here, perhaps we may also remember the beautiful prophetic tradition that “even a smile is an act of charity.” Passing on our smiles, from one to the other, we can combat incredible adversity with infectious hope.