Major changes have been announced to Ramadan for 2021 after talks between Muslim leaders and top health officials.
As part of the roadmap out of lockdown, restrictions are gradually easing with the next step coming in on Monday, April 12 – just as Ramadan is expected to get under way.
April 12 is the start of Step 2 of the roadmap and will see non-essential shops, hair salons and tattoo parlours reopening, along with gyms, outdoor attractions and community centres. In addition, more people are allowed to attend weddings and funerals. So what about religious events and festivals?
Under the national lockdown, places of worship have stayed open. People are allowed to attend services at churches, temples, mosques, gurdwaras, synagogues and similar venues in a way that complies with Government rules.
This means people from different households (or support bubbles) must not mix when participating in communal worship – or for any worship performed in their own homes.
As a result of the guidelines, there will be major changes for the observance of Ramadan this year.
Kamran Hussain, chief executive of Green Lane Masjid and Community Centre (GLMCC) in Small Heath, Birmingham, said they were putting in place new measures for the holy month of Ramadan.
The ninth month of the Islamic calendar is marked by fasting during daylight hours every day, as well as special prayers and meals.
Mr Hussain told Birmingham Live: “For our mosque, we have been liaising with Public Health England and other mosques to agree safety measures for Ramadan. As you know, the mosques were closed last Ramadan which was quite a blow for many.
“This year we are expecting a resurgence but all mosques will be continuing to adhere to social distancing and other precautionary measures, which will significantly reduce the capacity and numbers.
“We have already been visited by health inspectors on several ad hoc occasions over the last month as part of the inspections and preparations for Ramadan, and they have commended our general precautionary measures and set up for daily prayers.”
A joint statement from GLMCC’s resident imams said: “The benefits of lockdown and social distancing are bearing fruit as we slowly move out of lockdown. We are now seeing infections and death rates back at the level they were six months ago. However, as a community, we need to be conscious that we do not harm this progress by becoming complacent with the rules.
“Ramadan is a month of blessings and increased worship for Muslims. We have a special attachment to the numerous community activities that take place over this period, from communal iftars (breaking of the fast), congregational taraweeh (night prayers) and the outdoor Eid celebrations at the end of Ramadan. With the current situation, none of these practices will be the same this year.
“As a community we have done exceptionally well to open our masajid (mosques) safely, to stay at home, to initiate projects to support the community and NHS, to help the vulnerable and to take care of our elderly.
“Vaccination centres are now opening up in masajid, with everyone’s combined efforts we can now see a way out of this pandemic. The Muslim community has stepped up and is truly demonstrating faith in practice.
“In light of the current circumstances, with the approach of Ramadan, GLMCC has been working with other masajid and the Public Health Authorities to agree some critical messages for the holy month.”
“The main Government message remains unchanged: Hands. Face. Space. This has a few implications for us in Ramadan.”
In light of that, GLMCC announced major changes to Ramadan for 2021:
The joint statement from GLMCC’s resident imams detailed these as follows:
1. Taraweeh/Qiyam (night prayers):
“We will be open for taraweeh and want to accommodate as many people as possible. However, we know that we cannot host the thousands that we are accustomed to in pre-Covid years due to social distancing rules. We have therefore increased to 2 congregations to be held each night.
“The advice to everyone is to pray taraweeh locally and stick to one masjid so that you do not spread the virus to other Muslim prayer attendees. We will be joined by the elderly and vulnerable this year and have an ongoing duty to protect everyone.”
2. Iftar (breaking of the fast) and suhoor gatherings (pre-dawn meal):
“We typically feed over 250 people a day for iftar (breaking of the fast) during past Ramadans. Likewise, we feed hundreds for suhoor in the last ten nights. Unfortunately, this will not be possible this year and poses too many hygiene risks.
“Attending iftars (breaking of the fast) at each other’s houses is also not allowed during this period of lockdown. Although we all enjoy the social interaction during Ramadan, this would help to spread the virus between houses.
“Why not donate the money that you would usually spend on an iftar meal to the local foodbank or those in need? See places to donate at www.greenlanemasjid.org/donate”
3. Itikaf (spiritual retreat)
“Again, in light of the current lockdown guidance, this will not be possible this year.”
4. Eid Al Fitr
“We all look forward to our large outdoor Eid gatherings with tens of thousands attending our annual Eid in the Park events. In line with the lockdown rules, we will not be running the annual Eid in the Park celebration for Eid al Fitr this year.
“However, if we remain on the current Government trajectory of coming out of lockdown, we intend to hold six jamats in the masjid as we did last year.”
Mosque leaders asked everyone to remember the key rule of ‘Hands. Face. Space’ and said if people failed to follow social distancing. all the progress made in tackling the virus would soon be undone, leading to a new spike in infections and deaths.
“We have a duty to protect ourselves, our families and others,” they said.
Officials cited a key passage from the Quran that reads: “If anyone saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of all mankind.”
They added: “Our dedicated frontline workers, key workers, and particularly the NHS are doing an amazing job at containing and managing the pandemic. Many of them have laid down their lives in the struggle. We need to support their work and protect everyone.
“We pray that Allah allows us to truly benefit from the month of Ramadan. May He ease everyone’s difficulty and forgive our deceased.”
GLMCC is a multi-award-winning mosque and has won the 2019 British Muslim Award for Mosque of the Year and the Beacon Awards for Best Run Mosque 2019 and Best Covid Response 2020.
Similar rules are set to be in place at other mosques in the region and across the UK.