The Muslim community at the University of Georgia is once again celebrating the holy month of Ramadan during a pandemic.
What is typically a month filled with fasting, family time and the celebration of Eid al-Fitr to conclude the month has become a socially distanced and more isolated celebration. Now, as vaccines are becoming more widely accessible and COVID-19 cases decline nationally, the communal aspect of Ramadan is gradually returning.
“Ramadan so far has just been fasting, and there hasn’t been much to do outside of that [except] praying,” said junior finance major Raeed Zaman. He said he doesn’t yet know his plans for the rest of the month, but he is going to have Iftar – the meal Muslims have after sunset to break their fast – with some friends in a few days.
Ahmed Ali, a junior management information systems major, also is unsure of his plans for the rest of Ramadan but said his parents have recently been able to start going to a mosque. He said they still have restrictions in place such as wearing a mask and social distancing, but they are starting to open up again. Zaman said the mosque he goes to in Johns Creek has these restrictions in place and also requires at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine for those 16 and older to enter.
Senior interdisciplinary art and design major Hufsa Zia said she noticed people started dropping off gifts to wish others “Ramadan Mubarak,” or, “Happy Ramadan,” to maintain the communal celebration of the month during COVID-19.
“So usually, I’d be with family, and then we would all go to Iftar parties and go to different people’s households,” said Zia, who is from Cumming. But she said last year’s celebration was different because her family did not go out and only ate and prayed at home.
“It was definitely more of a focused experience. I feel like all the other times everyone’s so out and about and you can’t really focus on yourself and your spirituality,” she said. This year, she is also looking forward to celebrating with friends.
Both Ali and Zaman said they are also usually with family for Ramadan. “I kind of see it as the Muslim equivalent of Christmas, except not as many presents, but that’s usually how it was,” Ali said. He said last year lacked the in-person social aspect of Ramadan that is usually present.
All three students said most people they know are at least partially vaccinated. Ali said the only obstacle that Muslims might face is that getting a vaccine or blood drawn may count as breaking the fast. According to an article by the LA Times, Islamic scholars around the world are saying that getting the vaccination will not count as breaking a fast, and many are encouraging Muslims to get the vaccine even if it may be during fasting.
“When the vaccine first came out, I feel like it was very hard to obtain, but it’s getting easier. Most everyone I know is slowly on the road to getting it,” Zia said.