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Asking the Clergy: What is the message of Ramadan in a time of global crisis?

Mufti Mohammad Farhan of the Islamic Center of

Mufti Mohammad Farhan of the Islamic Center of Long Island, Marjaneh Issapour of the Interfaith Institute of Long Island, and Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan of the Hillside Islamic Center. Credit: Jeff Bachner; Jose Donney; Jeff Bachner

Ramadan, which continues through May 12, is the ninth and most important month of the Islamic calendar. Observed by Muslims on Long Island as well as worldwide, Ramadan commemorates God’s revealing of the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. This week’s commenters discuss how COVID-19 has changed and deepened the meaning of such Ramadan obligations as prayer, personal reflection, charitable giving and daytime fasting, the latter one of the Five Pillars, or duties, required of Muslims.

Abdul Aziz Bhuiyan

Board chairman, Hillside Islamic Center in New Hyde Park, and chairman, Muslim Community of Nassau County

The blessed month of Ramadan is a precious gift from Allah (God) to Muslims. Among the lessons of Ramadan are to treat our fellow human beings with respect, to strengthen our brotherhood, to promote unity in the Muslim community and to be welcoming to all, regardless of religion. But, most importantly, the month teaches us how we can improve our connection with the Almighty.

The month of Ramadan instills a sense of empathy within us. It allows us to understand the situation of the less fortunate, to feel and experience the pain of hunger and the pangs of thirst that our poverty-stricken brothers and sisters feel every waking day. Ramadan is a month of mercy, bonding, helping one another and spreading happiness all around. This month is a shining example of the unity that can be achieved among all classes of people in any society. Fasting unites us all regardless of skin color or social status.

Ramadan reminds Muslims to be mindful of and help our communities. It gives us an opportunity to improve ourselves by performing numerous good deeds, such as providing food or financial aid to the needy. May Allah bless us with the blessings of Ramadan.

Mufti Mohammad Farhan

Executive director, Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury, and president, Children of Adam

Ramadan is a month of mercy and blessing from God. It is also a month of patience, kindness and generosity. The approach of this Ramadan brings the feeling of hope and strength to many who have been impacted by very challenging times. Ramadan allows a believer to connect with the Creator and Creation, through spiritual reflection and prayers.

During these difficult times, we also need to support one another; this can be accomplished by fasting. Choosing to remain hungry and thirsty because of the command of the Almighty allows one to sympathize with those who may be less fortunate. Ramadan also is a month of kindness, a month to strengthen ties with others, to clean one's heart and to care for those who are close and far. It is a time to strengthen those who might have been affected by sickness or are enduring a difficult time of remembering a lost one.

God Almighty says in the Holy Quran, "My mercy encompasses all things." (7:156) Let’s find the mercy of God in this month of Ramadan.

Marjaneh Issapour

Executive board member, Interfaith Institute of Long Island

During this holy month Muslim families and friends come together in mosques for communal worship, taraweeh (additional prayers during Ramadan), iftar (the meal served at the end of the day to break the fast) and itikaf (spending a few days inside a mosque). Some people travel abroad to be with loved ones or perform minor pilgrimages to Mecca.

Although indoor gatherings, international travel and other social aspects of Ramadan have been negatively impacted by efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19, there is a silver lining. Physical isolation allows time for more reflection and contemplation. As we fast, we become more aware of what our body and soul yearn for. The lack of social activities allows for a better focus on our personal spiritual, emotional and physical energy. This focus is a purifying process that brings us closer to Allah (God).

Although observances and traditions in this Ramadan are unlike those in pre-pandemic times, there is still great value and benefit in building a closer personal connection to God through fasting and praying in solitude. In these hard times we are reminded of Quranic verse 94:5-6, "With hardship comes ease," which helps us stay hopeful under all circumstances.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com.

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