Muslims in Bay Ridge prayer during Ramadan Photo: MSNBC.com

During the holy month of Ramadan, which runs from April 23 to May 23 this year, observant Muslims abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset. Other devotional practices during Ramadan include reading the Quran, Islam’s holy book, and performing acts of benevolence to draw closer to God.

One goal of Ramadan is to understand the challenges of the less fortunate. The traditional fast during the month helps one to understand and empathize with the struggles of others.

On a typical day during Ramadan, Muslims eat a small meal during the pre-dawn hours called a suhoor. In the evening, they break their fast with a meal called an iftar. Traditionally, evening meals are eaten at a mosque or a community center after nightly prayers. It’s a festive gathering.

Masjid At Taqwa on Bedford and Fulton avenues: Facebook

This year, however, the coronavirus pandemic has forced unwelcomed changes to how Muslims are observing Ramadan. Mosques are closed and social gatherings are banned to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.

“It has been horrible. At Ramadan, we are always at our center, but now the center is locked down and everybody is at home,” Alam lamented. “This year, we are celebrating individually, not collectively. This is unprecedented. This situation has caused a lot of sorrow for us.”

However, they remain undaunted by the limitations and health threat that COVID-19 has caused. Despite the pandemic, Ramadan is still a time of deep spirituality and benevolence.

In Kensington, the Brooklyn Islamic Center distributed food to about 5,000 people in April, at the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month on the Islamic calendar, Saiful Alam, the center’s president, told BKReader.

“We are also distributing food all over Brooklyn to needy people who call us,” Alam added. “Our center has been assisting people who need any kind of help, like families who don’t have money to bury their loved one.”

In Bedford Stuyvesant, members of Masjid At Taqwa have also distributed food in its community.

“Chicken and eggs. … Everybody is welcome,” a voice announces on a video posted to the mosque’s Facebook page on May 12.

It shows people in the community lining up outside the mosque to collect one of the 300 food packages.

On another occasion, Masjid At Taqwa distributed free grab-and-go halal hot meals.

Despite the challenges of social distancing due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Brooklyn’s Muslim community is committed to the tradition of showing compassion toward those in need during a Ramadan like none before it.


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Nigel Roberts

Nigel Roberts is a New York-based, award-winning freelance journalist. During his career, Nigel has written for several newspapers and magazines. He has extensive experience covering politics and was a...

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