The holy month of Ramadan begins on April 23.
With just two days to the start of the 30-day fasting month, the World Health Organisation (WHO) issued guidelines in a 'Safe Ramadan Advisory' which include social distancing practices and virtual religious meets, keeping in mind the COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed more than 1.5 lakh lives globally.
In its guidelines titled "Safe Ramadan practices in the context of the COVID-19", the WHO has stated that cancelling social and religious activities is a must to mitigate the impact on public health.
The WHO guidelines advise Muslims all over the world to:
- Follow a standardised risk assessment exercise while taking a decision to either modify or cancel, or proceed with holding a mass gathering.
- Avoid physical contact. Use culturally and religiously sanctioned greetings that avoid physical contact, such as waving, nodding, or placing the hand over the heart.
- Maintain safe physical distance even when offering 'zakah', or charity, to the needy.
- Serve packed food while maintaining safe (3 feet or 1 metre) distance, instead of organising 'iftar' banquets.
- Take extra precautions and avoid attending any gathering whatsoever if you are old or unwell.
- Avoid all events or gatherings if you have pre-existing medical conditions such as hypertension/diabetes.
- Adopt virtual alternatives, for example, mediums such as television, radio or the internet, instead of mass gatherings.
- Ensure proper physical hygiene such as hand washing - both inside and outside mosques, covered dustbins at venues to ensure safe disposal of tissues; regular cleaning of mosques and premises; and regular sanitisation of frequently touched objects such as light switches or staircase railings.
- Follow a healthy diet and keep yourself hydrated at all times and eat fresh food items during the fasting period.
Although no studies have been performed on relating fasting with COVID-19, those infected with the virus must consult a doctor while keeping or breaking a fast, advised the WHO.
Meanwhile the UAE Council of Fatwa too has released guidelines for Muslims to follow during Ramadan. The Fatwas issued are as below:
- Though all adult Muslims must fast during the holy month, those who have symptoms of COVID-19 may choose not to fast during Ramadan.
- Workers in the health sectors also have the right to choose not to fast during their work days.
- Eid prayers may be performed at home, either individually or as a group with people living in the same house.
- Gatherings are prohibited.
- Payment of 'zakah', or charity, to the needy can be paid earlier to help people in hard situations.
In India too Islamic scholars from all schools of thought have appealed to Muslims to :
- Offer prayers during the holy month of Ramadan at their homes,
- Eat their pre-dawn meals and ‘Iftar’ meals at homes and
- Not go to the mosque to break fast in view of the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of coronavirus.