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Mariam Khan

British Muslims are keeping community spirit alive this Ramadan

Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Muslim communities are thriving. [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 May, 2020

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Ramadan in lockdown still feels fractured, but new creative online spaces and efforts to care for the vulnerable are a testament to thriving community spirit.
For many, Ramadan is synonymous with the word community. A time to pull those around them tighter and for families to make a greater effort to come together. 

It is a time to do good, more so than usual, to pray together and make the effort to turn up for Taraweeh in the masjid, to share food with neighbours, and give charity to those less fortunate. It is a time to be conscious of the world around them, but also a time to practice patience and gratitude.  

However, this year has been different, it is a Ramadan in lockdown - many have never, and potentially will never, experience something as uniquely circumstantial as this ever again. At the same time, the physical unity of communities has been limited and stretched. Not being together in a physical sense is hard, and yet communities have adapted. 

Though there is an aching for mosque spaces and the physicality of community, Muslims have come together in so many different ways. From online halaqa classes and the many educational Ramadan series, to jummah prayers online and Islamic quizzes on Friday evenings.  

Even amongst Covid-19, communities are thriving, and faith is not just stretched but strengthened as many focus on bolstering their spirituality. This Ramadan has encouraged many to focus on those who potentially won't have a feast laid out for them at the end of the day, those in our communities who are the most vulnerable right now.

Though there is an aching for mosque spaces and the physicality of community, Muslims have come together in so many different ways

My Open Iftar, an organisation that usually functions in central London, has shifted to hosting online Iftars, providing over one-thousand meals in collaboration with Dishoom so far. Muslim Youth Helpline reworked their entire Ramadan campaign to focus on Muslims struggling during Covid-19 - those who will be losing their jobs, their loved ones, and struggling with paying the bills. 

"Covid-19 threw off a lot of plans," Arfah Farooq, co-founder of Muslamic Makers, an organisation that brings together those who work in tech and the creative fields, told The New Arab.

Read more: Virtual Ramadan: How technology is helping Muslims stay
connected under lockdown

But the organisation has been "utilising zoom breakout rooms for people to connect, [host] interesting speakers and interactive quizzes" and wanted to further emphasise the need for safe online forums such as their slack community, which is open to all.

Many organisations have come together recognising the value and necessity of supporting one another in this difficult time. MiniDeed, is a crowdfunding social-giving app where instead of liking posts you can donate to charities. 

The app's marketing manager Sakib Ahmed explained that in response to Covid-19 a more immediate campaign was established in partnership with Muslim Youth Helpline and Human Relief to create a "safe space for Muslims" during this difficult period.

The app emphasises the principle that mini deeds are incredibly valuable and Ahmed emphasises that he "wants to make MiniDeed the place where we [Muslims] can share our experiences of this Ramadan together in a place where every experience and thought we share makes a real impact on the world".

Not being together in a physical sense is hard, and yet communities have adapted

As well as caring for the most vulnerable, Amaliah, a media platform amplifying Muslim women's voices, has continued to commission and create spaces for many within the community even as huge media organisations slash budgets.

Amaliah has worked with the National Zakat Foundation to create clarity around giving Zakat, has hosted art sessions, and even workout sessions, whilst encouraging people within the community to share what they are grateful for, and setting goals for what they want to achieve in terms of faith practice throughout Ramadan. 

Read more: Growing closer to God during Ramadan under lockdown

Similarly, Beni Lab, a cultural platform for the diaspora has hosted virtual sessions focusing on "mind, body, and soul". They've put together a rolling curriculum of sessions from takeovers with activists like Yassmin Abdel Magied and YouTuber Dina Torkio to actor Riz Ahmed. They also offer workouts, meditation sessions and more, inviting the community with open arms to join the safe haven they've created.

An online fundraiser for 13-year-old Ismail who died due to Covid-19 has to date also raised over £71,000. Nothing will bring back loved ones, but the Muslim community has attempted to help those families who lost loved ones, running towards those in need with open arms. 

Ramadan in lockdown for many still feels fractured and to say the impact isn't felt would be untrue, but the new spaces created and earnest efforts of all those within the community to care for and carry the most vulnerable during this time, and even to provide creative outlets, has been a saving grace and testament to community spirit and solidarity in the face of adversity. 

Mariam Khan is a British writer and activist. She is the editor of It's Not About the Burqa, an anthology of essays by Muslim women.

Follow her on Twitter @helloiammariam

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