كِتَـٰبٌ أَنزَلۡنَـٰهُ إِلَيۡكَ مُبَـٰرَكٌ۬ لِّيَدَّبَّرُوٓاْ ءَايَـٰتِهِۦ وَلِيَتَذَكَّرَ أُوْلُواْ ٱلۡأَلۡبَـٰبِ — “[This is] a blessed Book (the Quran) which We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad, sallallaahu alaihi wa sallam], that they might reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded.” [Quran 38:29]
As I write this we are in the 8th day of Sha’ban, the 8th month of the Islamic calendar. In just over 3 weeks we will enter Ramadan, the month of fasting.
The prophet (pbuh) used to fast a lot during the month of Sha’ban. Aisha (may Allah be please with her) said that: “I never saw the Messenger of Allah fast for a complete month except for Ramadan, and I never saw him do more fasting in any month than he did in Sha`ban” (Al-Bukhari).
In another hadith Prophet (pbuh) said related to the significance of the month of Shaban in these words: “People neglect this month which is between Rajab and Ramadan, in this month the actions of the people are presented to Allah; so I like my deeds to be presented while I am fasting”. (Abu Dawood)
So this month is a month of preparation for Ramadan. It is not obligatory for the believers to fast, but it was the prophet’s (pbuh) practice to fast most of the month, and some believers follow his example. At the very least observant Muslims seek to put into practice their best behaviour during this month as they know that Ramadan is just around the corner.
This Ramadan is going to be a challenge for Muslims all across the globe due to the ongoing worldwide quarantine against the covid-19 virus pandemic which encourages people to stay in their homes, practice social distancing and not congregate in groups larger than five people. Some countries are also enforcing nightly curfews.
Praying congregationally at the Mosque and getting together for breaking the fast (iftar), as well as the eid prayers ending the month-long fast, is a huge part of what makes Ramadan special. But this year Muslims will be forced to break their fast and do their prayers at home so that the feeling of being part of a larger collective act of worship will be diminished. In addition, many Muslims in already impoverished parts of the world may find it difficult to get access to found.
So, to borrow a verse from the Bible, “How do we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?” (Psalm 37) In other words, how do we practice individually what is meant to be practised collectively?
The answer to that question is that this is a test that believers must make the best of. In the absence of the ability to carry out some task, the obligation is lifted and the believers do what they can within the limits placed upon them. Muslims can still fast and perform prayers, but they will have to do so within the confines of their own homes until the quarantine is lifted. Yes, it will be difficult at times and it will not feel the same as before, especially for those who traditionally attend the Mosque every night for taraweeh prayers or have visited other people’s homes for iftar. But this is a sacrifice everyone will have to make for the greater good, ie the saving of lives and stopping the spread of this deadly virus.
And, as the Quran says: “Perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not.” (2:216)
Allah will not call us to account for what we cannot do, but only for what we can. So let us focus on what we can do and work within those limitations and hope for the best from Allah. Only Allah knows the wisdom behind these unfolding events and the believers will have to put their faith and trust in Him and trust that things will work out for the best.