Looking Back on the Holy Month of Ramadan

Many Muslims can look forward to a time where there will be much more laid-back coronavirus restrictions and a much more curious audience to learn about Ramadan as a whole.

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By Semoi Khan

After a long day at school, work, or home, the whole extended family gathers around a table to say their prayers before eating. On the table is an assortment of food for the children and much spicier dishes for the adults and those who can handle it. The most popular ones include peeajoo (fried lentils), beguni (battered and fried eggplant), an assortment of fruits, dates to break the fast, and last but not least, pakora (fried vegetable “patties”). The eating goes on for 30 minutes, as the elderly and the children eat slower, and afterward, the group goes to the mosque to pray Maghrib, the prayer right after the sun sets.

This past month, however, those who celebrated the holy month of Ramadan fasted at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, having to complete their assignments and classes without food or water until the sun had set.

Some students, such as junior Kaniz Akter, report having very little energy for the duration of the month. “[Ramadan] made me less productive because you either have to stay up late or wake up early, and I don’t get enough sleep often, so it ma[de] me really tired, and I don’t start my work until I break my fast,” she said. Akter’s sleep schedule meant that she would not sleep until 4:00 to 5:00 a.m. every night.

Others had little change in their productivity as a result of the holiday. “Fasting has not really impacted my productivity in the classroom because classes are in the morning, and even before Ramadan, I would not eat in the morning. I was already used to sleeping late and I am not a very deep sleeper so waking up for Sehri was not a problem for me,” freshman M. M. Abrar Hasnat said. This may be the case for many students who have become numb to Stuyvesant’s workloads leading them into the late-night hours, making the need to wake up for early morning prayers helpful rather than harmful.

With the threat of COVID-19 still looming, however, many students and their families continued exercising caution around congregating with family. “I just eat with my [immediate] family. I haven’t really seen anyone from outside of the household or eaten with them since Ramadan started, which is different from the norm,” freshman Eshaal Ubaid said.

However, there is hope for places of worship. “Many mosques have opened up already and follow social distancing guidelines. If you go to a mosque, you will need a mask, and people are made to pray far apart from one another,” an anonymous freshman said. During Eid, which marks the end of Ramadan, many masjids did not have mass praying times during the day, but socially distanced small to medium-sized prayers.

Typically, Ramadan would be celebrated with extended families, which could not happen due to COVID-19 restrictions. There were still positive aspects to Ramadan this year, however, despite it being celebrated within close quarters. The biggest plus was the limit on travel that would have been in effect, compared to if students went to school. “There’s no travel and it’s getting warmer. So, bus, train, even walking in school, all those steps are very tiring. So since it’s at home, it is easier to conserve energy and do school from bed,” Akter said.

Others are thankful that Ramadan is gaining more recognition as a holiday, as it is often underrepresented in comparison to other holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. “I’ve noticed that this year, more people have been informing each other about Ramadan, because I think more people are spending time on social media and more people are spreading awareness about it. I’ve noticed more people asking me about it this year than previous years and it’s been rather nice because it seems to be this lesser-known holiday somehow.” Ubaid said. With more people on social media and dwindling coronavirus restrictions, it seems that many Muslims can look forward to a time to celebrate outside of close quarters, and a much more curious audience to learn about Ramadan in general.