Looking Up, Looking Forward: A Reflection on Ramadan 2021

Mohamad Hamze ’24

Written by Mohamad Hamze ’24

Each year, as the Islamic holy month of Ramadan draws to a close, Muslims around the world turn their sights to the moon. In the lunar calendar, a new moon signifies the conclusion of the preceding month and the start of the next, so as the moon wanes in the sky in the last few nights of the month, we often take time to reflect on the month of Ramadan that is passing us by and look ahead to the first day of the month of Shawwal, called Eid al-Fitr. The holiday this year, which should begin at sundown on Wednesday, May 12 (pending the sighting of the new crescent moon), marks the end of the month of Ramadanand is traditionally a time to gather with family, exchange gifts, wear new clothes, and share meals together throughout the day in celebration of a completed month of fasting.

I write this as Muslims, including myself, are within the last ten nights of Ramadan, considered to be some of the most significant nights of the year. During these nights, the spiritual weight of good deeds is magnified and Muslims typically increase in their acts of remembrance and penance in hope that these actions fall on Laylat ul-Qadr (Night of “Power” or “Destiny”) – the night on which the first revelations of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. Worship on this day is said to be equal to the equivalent of 1,000 months of worship on a normal night. Most Muslim scholars agree that the exact date of Laylat ul-Qadr cannot be known, just that it is certainly one of the last five odd-numbered nights of the month. Thus, many Muslims will stay awake throughout these nights offering prayers and supplications in hope that they fall on the true Night of Power. 

The daily fasts of Ramadan this year may have been easier for some than those of last year, as COVID-19 restrictions have begun to ease in the wake of mass vaccination efforts throughout the United States and the world. Virtual iftars – the daily breaking of the fast after sunset – have been gradually replaced with in-person gatherings for the first time in over a year. I was personally fortunate enough to be able to both return home and break fast with my family in Massachusetts as well as gather with vaccinated friends, both Muslim and non-Muslim, to share meals together in Vermont. For many Muslims, however, this luxury may still have to be put off until next Ramadan. Those who are living, studying, and working far from home may be breaking their remaining fasts and planning to spend the upcoming Eid holiday without their family. The feeling of isolation can be strong, but I sincerely hope that anyone reading this knows there is a Muslim community here to support you both at the Larner College of Medicine and the University of Vermont.

Many groups of Muslims around the world have spent this Ramadan in fear of persecution or physical harm. In India, rates of COVID infection have never been higher and resources grow scarcer by the day. Palestinian Muslims face the constant threat of violence at their places of worship by Israeli police in the occupied regions of Jerusalem [1]. Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang, China continue to face detainment, slave labor, forced sterilizations, and repression of their ethnic and religious identity in what is nothing short of a genocide [2]. For those of us privileged enough to be free of backlash or insecurity in food or housing, it is important to be mindful of the global backdrop of these horrific circumstances. Ramadan has always been an opportunity for Muslims to improve ourselves and our faith, but it has also been commanded upon us as a time to empathize with those who are less fortunate and for whom the worldly scarcities of Ramadan are a daily experience. 

As we look forward to reveling in the rewards and festivities of a completed Ramadan and of the upcoming Eid holiday, may we continue to advocate for those facing struggles that many of us could never imagine; may we remember those no longer with us, who would have wished that they could have seen the blessings of this Ramadan; and may we hope and pray to see the next one as both healthy individuals and as a healthier global community. Eid Mubarak!

References

  1. Palestinians vow to save Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood,” Al Jazeera, May 5, 2021
  2. Uighurs: ‘Credible case’ China carrying out genocide,” BBC, Feb. 8, 2021

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