Mosques, like many places of worship, will remain closed due to restrictions aimed at slowing the new coronavirus. As the holy month of Ramadan begins, Muslims will celebrate the holiday a little differently this year.
Across the world and in North Texas, Muslims wished each other a "Happy Ramadan" as Thursday evening marked the start to their holy month.
Muslims don't eat or drink and abstain from intimate relations from sunrise to sunset for the entire month. They believe that their holy book, the Quran, was revealed during this time.
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"You're doing this full spiritual detox where you're abstaining from food and drink, so you can focus entirely on spirituality, you're feeding the heart and soul," said Omar Suleiman, the founder and president of the Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research. "At the same time, you're engaged actively in acts of charity and service and empathy to give to those who usually don't have what you're voluntarily abstaining from in these moments."
Every night during Ramadan, mosques are usually packed as Muslims pray together for hours in what's called "taraweeh."
Suleiman, who is based out of Dallas-Fort Worth, said because the mosques have been closed for weeks and will continue to remain closed due to stay-at-home orders, this year they're relying on virtual meetings.
“We’re going to try and improvise and do some Zoom Iftars, where people will break their fast over the camera, we’ll say some prayers before the time of breaking the fast and continue to stay connected as a community," Suleiman said. "Just to see each other smile, just to see each other in good spirits especially showing love to those who are going to have to do this all alone."
He said he is concerned for people who may not have family and are spending Ramadan alone, because usually there's a lot of social interaction during the month.
"It offers a great sense of belonging and community and people really thrive in Ramadan in both their spiritual and their social lives, so this Ramadan is really interesting," Suleiman said. "This Ramadan is interesting because Ramadan has a whole environment that's associated with it and now, you're April, May and June looks exactly the same. It's about how you choose to structure your time and how you choose to bring about some sort of healthy and spiritual prayer habits on your own that you can keep going. Obviously those that have families will make it easier for them than those that don't, I'm particularity concerned about those who are alone."
Places like Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia, and other Islamic holy sites, are bare as people have been told to worship from home due to the coronavirus.
Several North Texas Muslims travel plans to visit Mecca and Medina came to a halt because of public health concerns.