Growing closer to God during Ramadan under lockdown
In truth, the world at large has become increasingly secular, and younger generations in particular have been found to believe less in God, or feel compelled to identify to a particular faith.
According to a 2019 survey of 25,000 people in the Middle East and North Africa, since 2013, the number of people identifying as 'not religious' has risen from eight percent to 13 percent, and up to 18 percent for those under 30.
But crises are often known to make us turn to God, and with Ramadan being the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, and a month that often sees even not-so-practicing Muslims make more of an effort to engage with their faith, many told The New Arab that despite – or perhaps because – of a Ramadan in lockdown, they're taking part for the first time in a long time.
Millions of Muslims around the world are currently fasting in confinement, and – with public spaces including mosques closed down, and the customary communal iftars out of the question – some are feeling the absence of the Ramadan spirit. Others, meanwhile, are finding particularly great solace in surrender.
|Surrendering to something greater than ourselves when it becomes so very evident that we are not in control, is a natural need, and one that's being felt across the world|
"I haven't fasted for about 20 years," said Maria, who recently moved back in with her mum in Hertfordshire, UK.
"It's now mid Ramadan and I'm still struggling a bit, but I do feel a sense of peace and achievement. I also feel like I'm closer to God because of it, which has helped me believe that They are keeping my family and friends safe and healthy. It's a real comfort."
Indeed, surrendering to something greater than ourselves when it becomes so very evident that we are not in control, is a natural need, and one that's being felt across the world. Google searches for the word 'prayer' skyrocketed last month, doubling with every 80,000 new registered cases of coronavirus.
|Read more: How coronavirus has changed the way Muslims celebrate
With Ramadan, then, encouraging followers to increase their worship, do more good towards others, be grateful and introspective, some are suggesting it's come at the perfect time.
"No one knows what's happening or what's going to happen, so people are choosing to surrender to Him," 25-year-old New-York based Sara told The New Arab. "Islam means surrender in Arabic, and the very act of surrendering is the meaning of Islam; giving it all to God and the higher powers to do their work and protect and guide us," she added.
With many in a state of anxiety and grief, Dubai-based editor Yara explained how she's finding solace in "praying hard," looking at it as a way to "give out positive energy to the universe, to [her] surroundings and to [her] soul."
As 27-year-old Jordanian Leen put it, on other occasions, she might have her family and friends to turn to for advice and comfort, but with everyone currently in the same boat, if not in even more difficult situations, "no one has the answer except God, so it feels natural to ask Him for answers and seek comfort from Him".
"It's definitely brought me closer to God," she added. "I don't think that will change after coronavirus, so I guess that's the only good thing to have come out of this situation."
|In truth, many rituals of religion - and of Ramadan - are acts of self-care, with practices like gratitude, mindfulness and fasting proven to result in healthier, happier lives|
Many reflected on the fact that time has taken on a different kind of meaning in quarantine, affording more space for the practices former-hurried lives left little room for. "The amount of praying I've done in the past two weeks of Ramadan is more than I've done in the last 24 Ramadans' collectively," London-based writer Lara told The New Arab.
"I used to get so bored with prayers and it made me feel like such a hypocrite, but I'm just so much more accepting of the way time is passing in lockdown," she explained.
"I'm doing the Ramadan Taraweeh prayers, and one of the 'rules' for them is you prolong your Quran readings during the prayer, and it really does turn into this peaceful trance… It's kind of like meditation, except you have something to devote your focus to," she continued.
|Read more: As British Muslims, let's reconnect with our parents'
stories this Ramadan
The discipline and will power associated with fasting are also proving strengthening and gratifying. "There's something so powerful and purifying about it, and it really solidifies your commitment to God," explained Sara, adding that because it's you against your willpower, it can also provide a sense of achievement and boost your sense of self.
In truth, many rituals of religion – and of Ramadan – are acts of self-care, with practices like gratitude, mindfulness and fasting proven to result in healthier, happier lives. Many practicing Ramadan this year have been reminded of these benefits, and are particularly thankful for them in this trying time.
"Practicing Ramadan has made me appreciate and empathise more with those that are not as fortunate as I am," explained Maria. "People who are daily on just one meal, and probably not a nutritious one at that. It's made me be a little more generous. I've started donating more money and food, as well as my time, like by doing shopping for a neighbour."
"There's more of a sense of appreciation for life," she added. "It makes you feel like there is a bigger plan for our souls than just where we are at present."
Perhaps that is the biggest gift of all in surrendering to a higher power; that it can make us better people and more attuned to the collective. That it allows us to have faith that beyond our best reasonable efforts we are being taken care of, and any adversity is temporary in the story of our souls.
Follow her on Twitter: @alyamooro