Friday, April 24, 2020 marked the first day of the Holy month of Ramadan, the ninth month in the Muslim lunar calendar, where Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset for 30 continuous days. It is also a time for practising increased devotion and worship in which extra hours are spent reading the Qur’an, performing Taraweeh prayers after enjoying a fast-breaking meal, also known as Iftar.

During this month, 1.8 billion Muslims put aside the typical distractions of daily life in pursuit of renewing their sense of spirituality, spending more time in self-reflection, aiming to be the best version of the ideal self, using this holy time to re-connect with their humanitarian side by carrying out good deeds, whether it’s through small gestures to help the underprivileged, making donations, or preparing hearty meals for those in need.

While Ramadan is known for being a month were Muslims strengthen their relationship with God, it also fosters a spirit of togetherness, where throughout the holy month, members of the community gather with their families and friends to take part in activities such as praying, reciting Quran, breaking their fast together, inviting one another to break their fast together at home, or sending food to neighbours. Socially in Bahrain, after Iftar, family and friends typically go out to enjoy a cup of Arabic coffee or play a few board games late into the morning hours. In Bahrain, Ghabgas and Majlises are an important part of Ramadan tradition, whereby gatherings are held close to Suhoor time between friends and family members. For this reason, most coffee shops, and stores in shopping malls, extend their hours accordingly since restaurants remain closed during fasting hours. In the corporate world, working hours decrease to accommodate the shift in lifestyle.

After fasting for 30 days, Muslims across the globe celebrate Eid Al-Fitr, a celebration Muslims look forward to every year, also known as the festival of breaking the fast and this marks the official end of the holy month of Ramadan. During Eid, family members dress up in new Eid clothes and visit each other’s houses where they gather over a hearty meal, indulge in traditional sweets and offer gifts to loved ones, bringing in joy and happiness into many homes.

While Muslims were looking forward to celebrating the holy month of Ramadan, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic and increase in the number of confirmed cases has cut off billions of people including those in Bahrain from their cherished Ramadan rituals and traditions. Following the directives of the Government of Bahrain and the Ministry of Health, the Bahraini population has been advised to practise social distancing in order to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. COVID-19 has forced extensive changes to traditions in Bahrain and around the world, making Ramadan different for Muslims around the world this year.

Despite the current circumstances, official authorities have acting quickly from the very beginning in order to undertake precautionary measures to ensure the health and wellbeing of the Bahraini community.

With mosques in Bahrain usually brimming with Muslims for the Taraweeh prayers, they will now undertake these prayers at home to help keep their community safe and curb the spread of the virus. Breaking fast and suhoor will continue, however social distancing within the home will still be practised and with the limits placed on the number of people that can gather, the typical Ramadan Ghabgas will not continue as they once were.

Although COVID-19 has encouraged self-isolation and social distancing, most individuals around the world have had time for increased self-reflection. Therefore, as Muslims, they will continue to spend their time in prayer and self-reflection, deepening their faith, and practising self-discipline but from the safety of their own homes.
Thanks to the technology and social media platforms available today, people are using these technologies to connect with their friends and extended family, and the traditional aspects of Ramadan will remain, albeit from a safer distance.