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Coronavirus Kent: Imam of Nasir Mosque, in Gillingham, says Ramadan teachings could improve society when pandemic ends

The leader of a mosque in Medway has said people of all beliefs could learn from the messages of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

Safeer Khan, Imam of Nasir mosque on Richmond Road, Gillingham, believes the teachings could be the key to improving our society once the coronavirus lockdown finally ends.

Muslims would meet up on weekend evenings during Ramadan for big community feasts
Muslims would meet up on weekend evenings during Ramadan for big community feasts

Speaking ahead of the commemoration he said: "Every Ramadan is a month of fasting, and teaches us we have to be patient, sacrifice our comfort for other people, and try to look after those in society who are not that fortunate.

"During this time, I’ve been thinking about the fragility of our society and how much uncertainty and inequality there is.

"The gaps between rich and poor - we know there are people living hand to mouth and I think it’s a wake up call for us and our society."

During the month, Muslims are encouraged to think about charity, something which the Imam said is particularly central to the Islamic faith.

Mr Khan said: "Those of us who can will be going and helping the elderly, helping those people in isolation, offering our help to the local community.

Mr Khan at an anti-hate crime community event last year
Mr Khan at an anti-hate crime community event last year

"To think about other people and be considerate, and look to live a sustainable life - these are the basic things we think about, especially during Ramadan."

Ramadan starts this week and lasts around 30 days.

The holy month includes fasting during daylight hours, and usually ends with a communal feast at the end of the month called Eid al-Fitr, meaning "festival of breaking the fast."

During this time, the act of fasting is meant to remind Muslims of the suffering of the less fortunate.

The religious leader said: "Because of Covid-19 there are no possibilities of congregations or prayers at the mosques, no prayer gatherings or people hugging each other, expressing their love and affection.

Ramadan will be very different for Muslims during lockdown
Ramadan will be very different for Muslims during lockdown

"This will not be happening because we need to keep to social distancing."

Instead of attending prayers at the mosques, Muslims will have to do all prayers at home.

But Mr Khan is trying to work with other members of the community to make sure people stay as connected as possible during the month of fasting.

He is planning to hold video conference calls for those who are isolated alone, and daily talks and advice on how to pray during lockdown and ways to approach Ramadan fasting.

He hopes to use social media as much as possible to remind those taking part in the holy month the things they should be focusing on.

The Nasir Mosque during an open day. Picture: Steve Crispe.
The Nasir Mosque during an open day. Picture: Steve Crispe.

Mr Khan also wants to make sure older members of the community who are less comfortable with using modern technology still have the support they need.

The Imam said: "Many of them are living separately for their families so there's no-one there to teach them tech, so we have to explain to them one the phone, and if somebody can’t log into zoom we’ll record something and send them the talk on the phone.

"Mental health is so important during this time, it’s so important to keep in touch."

Other Muslims in the area have spoken out about the difficulties of fasting during lockdown.

Azeem Nadir, from the Kent Muslim Welfare Association, said: "It's a little bit lonely in the fact we'll be doing this alone or just in families.

"When you have strength in numbers - when there are lots of people doing something together - you tend to get some strength in that, and unfortunately when you're doing it on your own or in small groups, it does feel more difficult.

The fasting can start between 3-4am and goes on until around 8pm, so the days can feel long during that fasting period.

But Mr Nadir also hopes use the internet to keep people talking and connected during the period.

He said: "We're hoping on a daily basis to have some online sermons from Imams from our local mosques, to keep the connection with the community going."

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