Muslims in France prepare for muted Ramadan under coronavirus lockout

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                Les musulmans du monde entier et de toute la France marqueront le mois sacré du Ramadan cette année sous le blocus. L'événement annuel de jeûne, de prière et de charité est généralement un moment de communauté, mais en raison de la pandémie de coronavirus, de nombreux rituels ont été réduits.
            

Pour les musulmans, c'est le moment le plus sacré du calendrier islamique.

Ramadan requires them to abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset every day for a month, and it is an exercise in self-discipline and restraint, both spiritually and physically.

Muslims are also asked to refrain from sex and bad thoughts.

This year’s fast comes with new challenges, however.

“Because of the health crisis we are facing, Muslims will fast in detention,” said Imam Tareq Oubrou, rector of the El-Houda mosque in Bordeaux, in southwest France.

With strict curfews and social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of Covid-19, the 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, including the Muslim community of 6 million people in France, will have to give up to many community traditions of Ramadan.

Covid-19 and the spirit of Ramadan

“It will be a moment of spiritual introspection,” said Imam Oubrou.

“Muslims can take advantage of these extraordinary circumstances to get closer to God by reading the Koran,” he told RFI.

During the 30 days, Muslims wake up before sunrise for morning prayer and to eat, and then fast during daylight hours.

The breaking of the fast is generally a time when the communities meet, alongside their families in large gatherings for “Iftar” meals or “Taraweeh” prayers in mosques.

But because of Covid-19, mosques in France, like others around the world, closed as a precaution against the virus.

“There will be no prayers in the mosques during the month of Ramadan,” said Imam Oubrou.

This is because places of worship are often packed like Muslims, “even those who do not pray normally”, embrace this key pillar of their Islamic faith without hesitation, the religious leader offers as an explanation.

Controversial start

The first day of fasting for Ramadan remains subject to debate.

As the calendar is lunar, the start dates of each month change each year. Several users went on Twitter Thursday to offer their best hypotheses.

One person shared a letter from the Muslim Theological Council of France, stating that the faithful should start the fast on Friday, April 24.

Imam Oubrou dismisses the confusion around the start date of Ramadan, for whom it “begins on April 24 and ends on May 23”.

“In Bordeaux, we use astronomical calculations to determine the exact date of the start of Ramadan. Looking at the sky to see the light crescent moon is nonsense, ”he said.

All Muslims, however, agree that the Qur’an was revealed during Ramadan.

According to tradition, the Prophet Muhammad received a series of revelations from God which combined to form the Qur’an – and that the sacred book was revealed during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Ramadan.

When asked what his faithful thought about the celebration of the sacred month in custody, Imam Oubrou replied “it is in their interest, it is to protect their lives so that they do not have ‘other choice than to isolate oneself’.

New forms of worship

After all, Islam has been managing pandemics for over 1,400 years, he adds.

“From the Middle Ages, the prophet Mohammed taught Muslims the importance of quarantining themselves and limiting their movements to limit the spread of the disease. “

Capable and capable adults should fast, but children, the elderly and the sick are exempt.

“Islam is not irrational. If a person’s health is at stake, there will of course be exemptions. “

However, Imam Oubrou is aware that the human connection, generally embodied by this month of fasting, will have to be replaced.

“The connection will continue, although online. “

Muslims will be able to attend religious conferences via video conferencing applications such as Zoom, Facebook and YouTube.

In Paris, the Great Mosque will offer the faithful daily lessons throughout the month via Radio Orient station on themes ranging from patience, discipline and solidarity.

To help poor people

Charity, another of Isam’s five pillars, is especially encouraged during the holy month.

It is common for mosques to host large iftars – the shared meal taken at sunset to break the fast of the day – especially for the poor and needy.

For safety reasons, the World Health Organization has advised the use of individual boxes / servings of prepackaged food to meet strict social distancing rules.

Imam Oubrou says he is working with local authorities in Bordeaux to ensure the distribution of food to those who need it most.

“We distribute packages to the homeless and migrants, who are completely isolated. We apply all government restrictions to limit the spread of the virus, ”he explains.

The last day of Ramadan is Eid al-Fitr, which is celebrated with a feast. But again, this will be done in the privacy of homes.

“Yes, we are confined, but we must not give up on sympathizing with the poor,” said Imam Oubrou.

            

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