Two years ago on this page, I was compelled to write an article with the theme being “A Ramadan With A Difference”
Of course, the world was three or four months into the initial wave of COVID-19 and this wretched disease had already turned most of Australia on its head.
Terms that few of us had ever heard of, or at least we thought would never have any connection to our own lives – like a pandemic, social distancing, case numbers, self-isolation, Delta, Zoom meeting, homeschooling, first jab, PCR and Rapid Antigen tests, second jab, working remotely, Omicron, LGAs of concern, vaccine passports, takeaway only restaurants, boosters….and masks on public transport and in supermarkets – would become commonplace not only on the News and on social media but as a part of our own vocabularies.
And for Sydneysiders at least, we got used to the daily sight of former Premier Gladys Berejyklian fronting the TV cameras at 11:00AM to deliver the sad news of how many “new cases” had been recorded in the previous 24 hours.
Even more sadly of course were her reports of how many citizens of our great state had passed away.
I doubt if a single person reading this story hasn’t been affected by COVID in some way…..indeed, some of you reading now may be suffering from the Coronavirus, and if so, I pray that Allah swt grants you full and speedy shifaa.
My own family suffered the heart-breaking loss of my uncle Abdulkader Chemaisse (affectionately known as Uncle Albert), my dad’s brother, from COVID during October, 2021 – one of 6,425 Australians taken from their families by this devastating illness since it first reared its ugly head in the early months of 2020.
The impact of COVID on all of our lives has been severe and for us Muslims it has been especially tough.
For the first 34 years of my own life, I’d always taken going to the masjid for granted.
A given every Friday of the year and far more frequently of course during Ramadan.
Yet in 2020, the doors of all mosques in Sydney were locked shut for the entirety of Ramadan, and for several weeks beyond….all because of COVID.
It was surely a Ramadan with a difference and both individually and collectively, it broke the hearts of our community.
In 2021, after several months of reprieve and easing of restrictions, the Government was at it again as Ramadan drew closer with social distancing and mask-wearing becoming mandatory again in places of worship and attendance numbers as massive events such as Eid al fitr prayers being slashed.
Indeed, many mosques were already closed by Eid al fitr and would remain that way for several months.
The Health orders hit south western Sydney the hardest – being locked down totally, we were prevented from visiting family members in their homes – or welcoming them into our own – more so after Ramadan had concluded.
But the early ‘second wave’ restrictions did impact severely on permissible numbers at iftars, while events like my own Sydney International Eid Festival and the long-established Ramadan Nights were both called off for the second successive year.
Another gut-wrenching turn of events was the ban on international travel for almost two years, preventing us from travelling overseas to visit family, including those who were sick or even dying.
And those who had been planning – in many cases for years and years – to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, had to abort their journeys, or at least put those dreams on hold.
However, the year has of 2022 has thankfully seen a return to some kind normality for Muslims in Australia and indeed in most parts of the world – and it’s come just in time for Ramadan. Alhamdulillah.
Has COVID gone? No, not by any means and there were over 24,000 new cases detected in NSW alone just last Tuesday.
But the Omicron variant of the virus, which the vast majority of people around the world with COVID are currently contracting, has far milder symptoms than the Delta strain and this is the reason why governments almost universally have relaxed most of the restrictions which had previously become a part of our daily lives.
How good is it, for example, to be able to head down to your local masjid for Fajar prayers! And to Taraweeh in the evening. Brothers standing shoulder to shoulder and toe to toe, with barely a mask in sight!
To be able to enjoy iftar with one’s extended family, without having to do a headcount, for fear of being fined for breaching NSW Health Department orders!
Yes, it certainly is a relief and shows that we should never take anything for granted – again, Alhamdulillah for everything.
As you all know, Ramadan is the greatest and holiest month on our Islamic calendar, celebrated by Muslims throughout the world.
Non-Muslims perceive Ramadan as a month of fasting but we all know that it’s much, much more than that.
It is a commemoration of our beautiful prophet Muhammad PBUH’s first revelation and observing Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam.
It’s a full month of fasting, prayer, reflection, family and community and it’s also a time during which we should strive our utmost to increase our faith and God-consciousness, or Taqwa as we know it in Arabic.
“Believers! Fasting has been prescribed for you – as it was prescribed for those before you – so that you may be conscious of God.” (The Holy Qur’an, 2:183)….
And naturally, another way of becoming more God-conscious is by reading The Qur’an as much as possible: not only during Ramadan but throughout the rest of the year.
Of course, Zakat al-Fitr is usually paid during Ramadan and is another of the Five Pillars of Islam.
The Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, was the most generous of all people but he was never more generous than during the month of Ramadan.
So as we approach the end of the first week of this most blessed month, I want to take this opportunity to wish all of you reading this….
May Allah swt reward you for your fasting, your duas, your good deeds and your generosity.