Adult Muslims all around the globe fast & abstain themselves from pleasures with a sense of austerity during the blessed month of Ramadan. In this soul nourishing month, Muslims are encouraged to pray more, recite Quran, give charity, and involve themselves in activities to be closer to God with an intention to do so throughout the year. Similarly, special prayers (taraweeh) during Ramadan are offered in congregation, which occupies a special part of Ramadan activities after the night prayer. Celebrated as the month of Allah it is preferred to fast and feast together However, the last 10 days of Ramadan are considered as a perfect opportunity by Muslims believers to isolate themselves during Aitikaaf to concentrate on their worships solely for the sake of Allah. Muslims also pray longer especially during these last nights to ensure that they are there for whichever night Laylat al-Qadr occurs.
Ramadan is followed by the month of Shawwal which is the month starting with celebrations and feasts as a reward of fasting in the preceding month.
As Ramadan approaches near, so does the expected crowning of morbidity and mortality due to COVID-19 in Pakistan. It has well been said that COVID -19 is a highly contagious viral infection and spreads not only through respiratory droplets but also with contact of contaminated surfaces. So, the basic public health safety strategy lies in social distancing and maintaining the overall hygienic conditions.
While the government is taking measurements for the prevention of COVID-19 spread, it is our individual responsibility to assure prevention. Clear guidelines are already issued by the authorities for communal assemblies anywhere, especially in mosques, at iftars, while essential shopping, and also at distribution of charity, zakat or ration, and must be followed, such as, practicing physical distancing by maintaining a distance of a minimum of 3 feet, or better 6 feet, between people all the times. To avoid physical contact while greeting, specially the hand shake and a hug can be substituted by a distant gesture of waving, nodding, or even placing the hand over the chest. Ablution at home, bringing your own prayer mats, keeping safe distance, encouraging respiratory etiquette, practicing good hygiene, placing effective visual displays for spreading awareness regarding the disease and its prevention, avoiding misinformation, are all acts of charity.
Management committee at mosques should enforce regular disinfection after each congregational activity and provide good sanitation facility in washrooms and ablution area. Individuals using shared toilets should also practice hygiene. Door knobs and items frequently used should be disinfected at regular intervals. The religious leaders at mosques can give short communications on such topics. These may include a small shopper to dispose all the items after eating.
Good neighborhood practices may include assigning a single person on a weekly basis for purchase of groceries for multiple families to observe lock down. Similarly, the essential service shops could make an impact by opening few shops in the same location assigning themselves specific days.
Congregational gatherings should be smaller, shorter in duration, and in well ventilated areas. These can be done either at home or at mosques while maintaining the safe distance practices. People who feel unwell or have any symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate themselves and if deemed important, seek medical help. Older and immuno-compromised individuals with any pre-existing medical conditions such as Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma must stay safe indoors at their own homes and avoid any gatherings, as they are vulnerable to severe disease by COVID-19.
Use of tobacco is otherwise also prohibited, as much as it is in Ramadan. Cigarettes packs, lighters, match sticks and other items used may be contaminated, and shared used of huqqa, pipes or cigars are all considered to spread COVID-19 and other such infections.
Eid ul Fitr should also be celebrated along the same principles with simplicity and safe practices. Avoid unnecessary shopping, and remember all those people who are hit hard by this pandemic. Stay safe and keep others safe.