A time for prayer, humility and hope

Dawn to dusk fasting and prayer timings are the same, but there is something which is making the Ramadhan of 1441 AH different from all the previous Ramadhan. Only factor responsible for this difference is the coronavirus pandemic, which is not allowing people to meet and greet, share the Ramadhan delicacies, and forcing them to pray at home.

To avoid gathering, the mosques are closed for prayers. People are missing the mosques, especially for the Taraweeh, which is a special prayer during the holy month. For many, this is the first Ramadhan when they are offering the Taraweeh prayer at home.

Ramadhan has many dimensions, says Dr. Abdulraoof Ahmed Ismail, Faculty at CAS Salalah. “On the one hand, it is deeply spiritual, while intensely physical on the other. We experience Ramadhan at the personal as well as social levels both of which contribute to the spiritual and physical aspects of fasting. What is missing in this time around is the social experience, the unique feeling of togetherness.”

He says that the believers around the world, including him, are missing congregational Taraweeh prayer, which only the calm nights of Ramadhan can offer. “Even though I can offer it at home, I miss the experience of standing shoulder to shoulder with others in the house of Allah, an experience right from childhood. This time, there is no community iftar, no spiritual gatherings and friendly visits. And on a personal note, no more Ramadan drives on weekends to the unique beauty of Omani countrysides. But this has taught humans how vulnerable the so-called ‘most intelligent’ Homo-sapiens are in front of a sub-microscopic parasite.  And with this humility, we enter this year’s Ramadhan.

For Mohammed al Mashani, CEO National Feed, Ramadhan this year is uniquely different “because we have to fast for a whole month separated from the ones we love. As we all know, fasting is never easy without gathering with families, neighbours and friends. However, this year will be my first Ramadan in isolation.”

He feels this as an opportunity to be close with his own family, pray and meditate. “I call it a golden opportunity to spend more time with my family and find ways to introspect. COVID-19 might leave us eventually, but given us good lessons to learn. It makes us stronger to overcome any problems in future. I wish Ramadan Kareem to all the world and hope communities will come together for a better future,” he said.

Dr Akram Ali, Senior Geologist, finds Ramadhan humdrum a miss but admits that this Ramadhan is special for him for the time devoted to himself, away from many distractions. “I do miss my friends and extended family members during prayers and daily iftars, but I find it an opportunity to practice simplicity. As I remember, this is the first time in my life when I am doing Taraweeh prayer at home. I take it as God’s wish and pray the almighty to give us respite from the pandemic,” he said.

Similar is the situation with Dr Ahmed al Shanfari, Director Agricultural and livestock Research, Dhofar. The difference lies in religious practices due to the coronavirus pandemic. He is missing the community prayers at the mosques, “especially in the holy month of Ramadhan in which the reward is doubled. Also, I am missing the social dimensions of Ramadhan by cutting visits to family, relatives and friends to prevent the spread of this disease. It, of course, has a psychological impact on people. I pray to the almighty to lift this scourge, heal every patient, and restore normalcy as soon as possible.”

Dr Syed Ahsan Jamil, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Dhofar University, admits “Ramadhan this year is very different. The great enthusiasm with which we all used to fast and go to the mosque on the call to prayer is missing this time. Friends in Salalah used to vie with each other to organise iftar parties and it was a great feeling going and meeting.”

“Unfortunately, due to the pandemic all are at home this time. There is no rush to go to prayers; rather each house has a dedicated place to perform the prayers. I have the opportunity to offer each ‘Salah’ with all my family together and I discovered how much all my children know about Ramadhan. We are spending time together understanding each other more. Special culinary skills are also being developed in-house by all the family members making every iftar special. The only thing which is missed dearly is the Taraweeh prayer at the Sultan Qaboos Mosque. Special supplications are being made to Allah to end this pandemic so that we are able to enjoy our freedom once again.”

For Mohammed al Mashani, GM Corporate Communications, Port of Salalah, the Ramadhan spirit is the same as before. The COVID-19 crisis has put some restrictions in terms of offering Taraweeh prayer at home, breaking the fast with close family members instead of extended family and sports activities are not taking place as part of the precautions against the spread of the virus. “Staying home is the theme of the time. For me, apart from going to work, I am spending most of the time at home with the family, reading books, watching TV and doing some sports activities to keep fit.