Image Credit: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

In less than a week, the holiest month for Muslims across the globe sweeps in. It is the month of Ramadan, the month during which the Quran — the holy book of Islam — was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad [PBUH]. During this time the faithful undergo fasting and abstinence from dawn to dusk, followed by a period of eating, prayers and socialising. A popular theme for the month had been the togetherness that Ramadan brings.

This year in view of the global pandemic sweeping across all countries, Muslims will have to be doing their part to stem the spread of coronavirus. While in the past, most Muslims would fast during the day and participate in group prayers during the appointed prayer times, something that was encouraged. However today this could be dangerous. This Ramadan, it’s best that we continue social distancing as recommended by experts and authorities.

The coronavirus has been proved to be transmitted from human to human in close contact and this is precisely why governments in the GCC have banned congregations of the faithful in mosques where traditionally a large gathering of the faithful is expected to flow in during the fasting month. The government has taken this action as a protective measure for all.

Social gatherings are discouraged

Individually, Muslims have to adapt to the current restrictions regarding their mobility, as many countries have introduced lockdown measures to combat the spread of the virus. The traditional ending of the fast with the extended family has to be shelved for now in the interest of all the guests as social gatherings in today’s times are extremely discouraged.

Usually, families gather together right before the end of the fast to maintain that spiritual bond and end their fast with each other but no more. One cannot help but remember the case of a family in New Jersey, US, when seven members of a single-family contracted COVID-19 last week, leaving four dead and others in critical condition. This happened soon after they had got together during a Sunday dinner.

Muslims who traditionally flocked into mosques for the traditional Taraweeh prayers will have to undertake those prayers at home in the interest of their communities. There is a fear that traditionally large gatherings where the faithful would stand in proximity of each other, shoulder to shoulder, for over an hour might not be safe in the present context.

This virus knows no barriers. It does not discriminate. Please protect yourself and your loved ones by following the guidelines established by authorities for your protection. This Ramadan, stay indoors and stay safe.

- Tariq A. Al Maeena, Saudi commentator

The meanderings of the faithful after Taraweeh to the marketplace, malls or other venues of social gathering into the late hours of the night will have to be also curtailed and limited to within the four walls of one’s home.

It is the responsibility of each Muslim, as a member of the human race and as a believer in Islam to ensure that no harm comes to another being through his actions.

What is faith without empathy? What is true faith if the welfare of another being is not of our concern? Islam serves to promote peace and well-being and Muslims would be alert to all calls from the respective authorities and follow the guidelines established to combat the spread of the virus.

Having said that, I am aware that there will be some fundamentalists in many nations who will flatly dismiss what I have suggested. For them, their belief is that they fall under God’s protection and therefore need no shutdowns, lockdowns or social distancing. Nothing bad will penetrate their sphere of existence or so they think, and in their ignorance, they are capable of spreading far more harm than good. Examples of such stubbornness have been prominently heralded in several Asian countries.

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Surah Al Hijr in the Holy Quran delivers a message of support to the believers: “Allah will guard His revelation, His religion, and His true servants. So, trust Allah, keep on spreading the message and raising awareness about this beautiful religion, and do not fear the backlash.”

Some fundamentalists have taken it literally to mean that their category as Muslims will shield them. Statistics have proven them wrong as along with others, Muslims too are falling prey to the virus all over the world.

This virus knows no barriers. It does not discriminate. Please protect yourself and your loved ones by following the guidelines established by authorities for your protection. This Ramadan, stay indoors and stay safe.

— Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Twitter: @talmaeena