Religious observances during quarantine

With+iftar+time+arriving%2C+junior+Fatema+Rehmani+and+her+family+gather+to+break+their+fast+with+dates+and+water%2C+a+tradition+rooted+in+the+religious+teachings+of+Prophet+Muhammad.+

Photo Courtesy: Fatema Rehmani

With iftar time arriving, junior Fatema Rehmani and her family gather to break their fast with dates and water, a tradition rooted in the religious teachings of Prophet Muhammad.

With holidays arriving during a pandemic –and social distancing measures remaining in effect across the globe to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus–students describe how their practices changed during this unprecedented time.

Ramadan:

Ramadan is a holy month observed by Muslims as a month of fasting, reflection and communal congregations. In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Muslims are observing religious rituals and traditions in isolation. Sophomore Areeb Hasan explains the essence of the holiest month for Muslims in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar which is based on the cycles of the moon.

“[Ramadan] is where your prayers are more likely to be accepted whilst your good deeds are multiplied,” Hasan said. “It is about teaching discipline through fasting and long nights of prayer [called] taraweeh.”

While self-reflection and prayers are in practice, Muslims start their fast after they have finished with suhoor, a meal before dawn. The fast is broken as the sun sets after each day, known as iftar, with family or community gatherings.

“It’s always a really good reminder that being able to eat food and drink water whenever we want to is a huge blessing that we may take for granted sometimes,” junior Fatema Rehmani said.

The fourth prayer of the day is done after the fast is broken, and it is common to attend taraweeh (nightly prayers) at a local mosque with the community. However, currently mosques are closed globally. 

To me, Ramadan means being your best self for one month and trying to preserve that way of life. It functions as a spiritual New Year’s resolution.”

— Areeb Hasan

“[My favorite part of Ramadan is] probably Qiyam-Ul-Layl, voluntary prayer which means ‘standing of the night’ or when people stay at the mosque [from] dusk to dawn in worship,” Hasan said. “It’s amazing to see the mosque filled at 5 a.m. I really liked the atmosphere.”

Most religious practices and traditions during Ramadan had to be adjusted to suit quarantine restrictions. 

“[One] thing that has been different is usually my grandparents spend Ramadan with us, but they could not fly in from Pakistan because of the virus,” Rehmani said. 

An alteration that continues to impact Hasan and other Muslim family households are Taraweeh prayers, which he has led multiple times in a local mosque. Acquiring to adapt to these changes in rituals, Hasan explains his daily quarantine Ramadan schedule at home.

“I stay up until 4 a.m. for suhoor, then sleep after the morning prayer at 5 a.m.,” Hasan said. “Afterwards, I get up relatively late to do some online homework and prepare for Taraweeh.” 

Hasan’s preparations to lead prayers with his family take approximately two hours each day and consists of reciting Arabic verses in a specific kind of elocution.

“[Taraweeh] is usually what I end up spending a lot of time with,” Hasan said. “To me, Ramadan means being your best self for one month and trying to preserve that way of life. It functions as a spiritual New Year’s resolution.”

Passover: 

Passover is one of the Jewish religion’s most sacred and widely observed holidays. With the global pandemic impeding traditional practices, Jewish communities had to adapt new ways of observing Passover. 

Passover or Pesach in Hebrew, is an eight-day holiday is celebrated in the early spring and commemorates the Biblical story of the Jewish Exodus from ancient Egyptian slavery.  

“The story [of] Passover really means survival. That’s the theme: endurance and being in community and overcoming something together,” junior Sarah Marks said. “Even though we have this whole pandemic, in a sense we’re all learning a lot more about being a community, sharing resources and understanding that everyone is in this together, and I feel that a lot of those values can be seen in the story of Passover.”

Celebrations this year were different for journalism teacher Debra Klevens. Unable to attend extended family gatherings, Klevens found a way to adjust.

Celebrating Passover at home, journalism teacher Debra Klevens hosts a virtual Seder service with her family. With places of worship shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, families had to adjust their worship and celebrations. “Once we figured out how to make it work so that everyone could hear one another it was better than expected,” Klevens said. “The nice part was we were able to include my cousins that live in Kansas City and my uncle that lives in Florida. Ordinarily, they would not have been included.”

“I set up a Zoom Sedar with my family. My sister dropped off prayer books, called Haggadah, at each family’s home. Instead of being in-person reading it, we each sat at our own tables and my brother in law led the service from his home,” Klevens said. “I sent out suggested Zoom etiquette, but some of the participants didn’t get it and had a lot of side chatter. ” 

Marks also set up a virtual service with her family. This year, she was able to keep Passover for a few days. 

“It was a lot harder at school to not be able to eat certain things and watch everyone else eat the things that you can’t. You can’t eat anything with yeast like cookies, pizza and bread,” Marks said. “I dabbled in the art of keeping Passover. I did not stick with it [but] it was easier at home.” 

Passover rituals vary, reflecting different family traditions and denominations. Some important themes include Jewish history, family, social justice and freedom. 

“It’s not what is ideal for anybody no matter what holiday. Easter was not fun for a lot of my Christian friends. I’m sure Ramadan is going to be different,” Marks said. “It’s not fun for anyone but I hope that we can go back to normal very soon.”

Easter: 

In efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19, many businesses and schools have shut down. Places of worship followed this trend, meaning alternative routes were taken for Christians to observe their holiday.

“For me, [Easter] is definitely one of the biggest Christian celebrations and it’s fun because it’s about going on a journey and, normally, people give up things for it,” senior Quinn Berry said. “It’s about sacrifice and focusing on your faith, so Easter is a big celebration. It’s definitely fun to celebrate that with my family and loved ones.”

Normally for Easter, Berry’s family goes to church service and gets together for a family dinner. 

“You can go to the church service, the mass, really anytime in the morning so we usually go early in the morning. We’ll have brunch and then a big dinner at the end of it,” Berry said. “This year, we went really crazy with the cooking since we had a lot of time. It was basically a mini Thanksgiving meal, which was awesome.” 

In addition to their dinner, Berry’s family watched the church service live on Facebook.

“The churches are open, but they aren’t open for services so we watched it on Facebook and that was how we celebrated it. Then we dressed up and hung around the house,” Berry said. “The week leading up to Easter has a lot of important days, so it was weird to not physically be at church to celebrate that, but I think it was interesting because one of the biggest points of [Easter] is having time to reflect and I definitely had more than enough of that being stuck at home. I think it was cool to be able to do that on my own instead of in a church environment.”