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Muslims across Kent have expressed how Ramadan during pandemic has been different, but not necessarily worse

Uni students and faith leaders have been explaining the positive and negative changes they expect to face as they begin their second Ramadan during a pandemic.

Some of Kent's Muslim community have expressed that even though not being able to see family and friends during the holy month is a struggle, the practice of fasting and praying has eased slightly.

Canterbury Mosque's elected committee members (picture taken pre-pandemic)
Canterbury Mosque's elected committee members (picture taken pre-pandemic)

Nimra Fatima, from Gravesend, will be taking part in Ramadan while studying from home.

The 20-year-old computing student said: "Last year it was really hard because we couldn't see our families or go to the mosque to pray. There wasn't the community aspect to it.

"But because of lockdown, I did find the month less tiring as I had more time to pray and didn't have to travel to and from uni.

"The end of Ramadan is marked by a big celebration called Eid ul-Fitr, the Festival of the Breaking of the Fast.

"Usually we have a big dinner with our family and attend the mosque but last year we did a drive-by of our relatives' houses instead."

This year, the Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins the week starting today and will end around Wednesday, May 12 depending on the lunar calendar.

Throughout the month, Muslims won't eat or drink during the hours of daylight.

This offers people a moment for personal reflection as well as an opportunity to see how they can help others in their communities.

Ramadan remembers the month the Qur'an, the Muslim holy book, was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.

Nimra added: "As the month goes on, the days and your fasting hours get longer. It can be tough but it is really rewarding.

Canterbury Mosque. Picture: Google
Canterbury Mosque. Picture: Google

"Ramadan is a month to be grateful and it gives you a sense of what others are going through."

Almost all Muslims try to give up bad habits during Ramadan.

Many Muslims will attempt to read the whole of the Qur'an at least once during the month and attend special services in Mosques during which the holy book is read.

But due to the pandemic, many mosques will be live streaming services online, such as the reading of Islamic poetry.

Mohamed Ali has been the chairman of Canterbury Mosque since November 2019.

Mohamed Ali is also a consultant anaesthetist at Canterbury hospital
Mohamed Ali is also a consultant anaesthetist at Canterbury hospital

The 50-year-old is also a consultant anaesthetist at Canterbury hospital.

He said: "During the first lockdown we closed completely but with the current government guidelines we are now open for socially-distanced prayers.

"People over the age of 70 and children are not allowed to the mosque for their protection and those that do attend follow the one-way system, stand two metres apart, wear face coverings and use sanitizing stations.

"For those who can't attend we do hold sessions online, but as we can't perform group prayers virtually we have held online activities such as quizzes and readings instead.

"Last Ramadan we showed our appreciation for the NHS and other emergency workers.

Mohamed Ali is chairman of Canterbury Mosque
Mohamed Ali is chairman of Canterbury Mosque

"We made them meals and sent volunteer groups to help on the Covid-19 testing sites.

"Ramadan is all about charity and although we missed the mosque we didn't miss the opportunity to help others.

"We will be delivering dry food bags to families, refugees and students in need across Canterbury, Dover, Herne Bay and Whitstable.

"Many people believe Ramadan is a time when Muslims fast for reflection but in reality we also take part in really good, charitable things. It is a time for acts of kindness."

Humaira Farooq, from Northfleet, is studying accounting at university and working as an apprentice for Deloitte in London.

Humaira Farooq, from Northfleet, speaks about Ramadan
Humaira Farooq, from Northfleet, speaks about Ramadan

The 20-year-old said: "During Ramadan, we continue our evening prayers until midnight.

"Usually getting up for work or school the next morning can be really difficult but thanks to lockdown and working from home we can start our days later as we don't need to commute.

"Working in London means days can be long and you can struggle with energy levels due to the fast. Although we can't see family, the lockdown has and will help me read more of the Qur'an and not get as easily exhausted."

To open their fast Muslims usually eat a date or have a sip of water while saying a line of prayer. Then they can continue eating as normal.

Safeer Khan has been the Imam at Nasir Mosque, Gillingham, for seven years.

Safeer Khan conducting an online prayer
Safeer Khan conducting an online prayer

The 31-year-old said: "Our Ramadan starts on Wednesday. It changes for individuals depending on what calendar they follow.

"We are encouraging people to pray at home as congregation prayers and get-togethers will not be happening this year.

"Part of Ramadan is about sacrifice and we have had a lot of that happen over the past year.

"We want to protect others and we have a virtue to look after each other and lockdown is enabling us to do that.

Humaira added: "Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, it is very humbling.

Safeer Khan Imam of Nasir Mosque in Gillingham
Safeer Khan Imam of Nasir Mosque in Gillingham

"It gives you a lot of time to reflect and it is a really holy month; it helps you get closer to your religion.

"Everyone's journeys are different. The month is intense but also very peaceful.

"For me, Ramadan is the best but most difficult time of the year."

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