To ensure the health and safety of all, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has issued a guideline for Muslims on how to practise a safe Ramadan during a pandemic.
This year, Ramadan is expected to fall on April 24 as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect millions around the world. The transmission of COVID-19 is facilitated by close contact between people, as the virus is spread through respiratory droplets and contact with contaminated surfaces.
By adhering to these WHO-approved rules, residents can appease their minds and rest assured that they can still practise Ramadan without compromising their health or the health and safety of others.
When the faithful give special attention to those who may be adversely affected while distributing their sadaqat or zakah during this Ramadan, consider the physical distancing measures in place.
To avoid the crowded gathering associated with iftar buffets, consider using individual pre-packaged boxes/servings of food. These can be organised by centralized entities and institutions, which should adhere to physical distancing throughout the whole cycle, from collecting and packaging to storing and distribution.
Encourage healthy hygiene
If social and religious gatherings are cancelled, the WHO recommended that virtual alternatives be used when possible, such as television, radio, digital, and social media.
Muslims perform wudu (ablution) before prayers, which helps maintain healthy hygiene. The following additional measures should also be considered:
- Use soap and water, as well as hand sanitisers that have at least 70 per cent alcohol content.
- Use disposable tissues and bins with disposable liners and lids, to safely dispose of all types of waste.
- Personal prayer rugs should always be placed over carpets.
Advice on physical distancing
Practice physical distancing by strictly maintaining a distance of at least 1 metre (or around 3 feet) between people at all times.
Use culturally and religiously sanctioned greetings that avoid physical contact, such as waving, nodding, or placing the hand over the heart.
Stop large numbers of people gathering in places associated with Ramadan activities, such as entertainment venues, markets, and shops.
No studies of fasting and risk of COVID-19 infection have been performed. Healthy people should be able to fast during this Ramadan as in previous years, while COVID-19 patients may consider religious licenses regarding breaking the fast in consultation with their doctors, as they would do with any other disease.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are restricted in their movements; but, if restrictions allow, always practice physical distancing and proper hand hygiene even during any exercise activity. In lieu of outdoor activities, indoor physical movement and online physical activity classes are encouraged.
Healthy diet and nutrition
Proper nutrition and hydration are vital during the month of Ramadan. People should eat a variety of fresh and unprocessed foods every day and drink plenty of water.
Tobacco use is ill-advised under any circumstances, especially during Ramadan and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Frequent smokers may already have lung disease, or reduced lung capacity, which greatly increases the risk of serious COVID-19 illness. When smoking cigarettes, the fingers (and possibly contaminated cigarettes) touch the lips, which increases the likelihood of the virus entering the respiratory system. When shihsa is used, it is likely that mouth pieces and hoses are shared, which also facilitates transmission of the virus.
Promoting mental and psychosocial health
Despite the different execution in practices this year, it is important to reassure the faithful that they can still reflect, improve, pray, share, and care – all from a healthy distance.
Ensuring that family, friends, and elders are still engaged in light of physical distancing needs to be considered; encouraging alternate and digital platforms for interaction is essentia. Offering special prayers for the sick, alongside messages of hope and comfort, are methods to observe the tenants of Ramadan while maintaining public health.
Responding to situations of domestic violence
In settings where movement restrictions are in place, incidents of domestic violence, particularly against women, children, and marginalized people, are likely to increase.
Authorities and religious leaders can actively speak out against violence and provide support or encourage victims to seek help.