Muslims are estimated to make up around one-fourth of the world’s population, calculating to 1.6 billion and Islam is the second biggest religion after Christianity.
One of the biggest religious rituals observed by many Muslims is the Holy Month of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a month of daily fasting, prayer and reflection, often matched by nightly banqueting, social mingling and excitement.
According to Islamic Relief, Ramadan this year began on April 2 and ended on Monday, May 1 or 2 – depending on the phase of the moon. This was then followed by Muslims celebrating Eid al-Fitr.
Every year, the Muslim community becomes elated once Ramadan comes around the corner as all Muslims around the world can once again fast, visit mosques and celebrate the month of Ramadan with families and loved ones.
But this was not the case last year in Ramadan. Many were stuck at home with their families unable to see loved ones due to the stay-at-home orders during the Covid-19 pandemic and its lockdowns.
Mosques in many cities were closed and there were no congregational prayers, no visits to family and no night-time festivities and no end of Ramadan celebration.
For Afshah Ashraf and her husband, this means they spent the last Ramadan in the close company of their immediate family with their two toddlers at home in Sheffield.
Afshah said: “Last year, we made many memories with our kids, but we missed out on bigger opportunities with friends, family and in the Muslim community – especially being able to celebrate Eid all together.”
But this year, with hardly any Covid-19 restrictions, Ramadan has been a very different one for many in comparison to the last two years. People have finally been able to open their fasts with their family and friends, visit the mosque for congregational prayers and celebrate Eid al-Fitr with family and loved ones.
Afshah said: “This year, Ramadan has restored the missing satisfaction from last year as my family and I are now allowed to freely have our evening meals with our families, visit the mosques and close friends.”
Although some may enjoy the idea of being at home with their family, many Muslims shared the opinion that being restricted made it difficult for the meaning of Ramadan to be cherished in its proper way and gave an extraordinary lesson to the community on reflecting on the core principles of Ramadan.
Hundreds of millions of Muslims across the world have now made their journey through Ramadan to celebrate Eid al-Fitr.
But, this month of fasting has also brought many good rewards, setting aside the fasting – whether it be offering half a date to someone who is fasting, abstinence from disdained acts or obedience.
It has been, however, the first time in two years that many employees observing Ramadan have been doing so at the workplace, rather than from home.
One woman I was speaking to, who wishes to remain anonymous, said: "Time has flown by Ramadan this year and comparing to last year’s Ramadan, as catastrophic the coronavirus pandemic was, it brought families together and helped us cherish the symbolism and the history of the month of Ramadan has.
"This year Ramadan has been quite difficult, even though most of the time has flown by due to having to work and with children off school, but it truly is a blessing to have Ramadan back to normal this year."