Ramadan is a very special time for people in the Muslim world. It is a time to connect spiritually, purify your soul, and reflect on the year gone by. During Ramadan we are hungry and thirsty during the day, because we fast. This encourages empathy – we feel and learn how people who are poor and hungry may feel all the time, year-round.

Something special about Ramadan is that because we are all hungry during the day, all praying at night, distinctions between levels of society are erased. Everyone – the rich and the poor – are at the same level.

At night we pray. The imam does one section of the thirty subsections of the Qur’an each night. Most years we attend mosque each evening, and most people look forward to that. Families bring their children, and everyone joins together for prayer. Afterwards, people chat with friends and family, and sometimes people bring snacks to the mosque to share. So, every night during Ramadan we connect as a community.

Usually during Ramadan we go around to different houses to break the fast together. We take turns. Often there are so many invitations it is hard to manage. A  benefit to sharing meals is having time together, strengthening bonds in the community, spending time with friends and family.

Ramadan pre-coronavirus. June 1, 2019 at Gateway Community Services, Portland.

Physically coming together is not happening this year, due to COVID-19. However, Ramadan is still a wonderful time of year for us. It is a time to ask forgiveness of anyone you may have hurt during the year, and send messages asking for forgiveness.

And people have been checking in to see if others need support during Ramadan. The first thing people eat after breaking their fast each evening is dates, for example. For Somalis, sambusas are also important. If there are no sambusas during Iftar – the meal that breaks the fast – something is missing.

We are learning how to get used to this new way of observing Ramadan. Some imams are holding Friday prayers and sermons virtually through Zoom or Facebook Live, others are not. In any case, people are still able to pray at home in circumstances like we are experiencing this year.