Muslim Women Reflect On Ramadan Under Quarantine Through Art

We experienced Ramadan during a difficult time for the entire world – the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19).

By

Sarah Maung and Salma HQ

Photo, Art - Salma HQ

Alhamdulillah, we have lived to witness the sun set on a Ramadan unlike any other in the glorious history of Islam. We experienced Ramadan during a difficult time for the entire world – the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19). With so much being taken away from us and having to say goodbye to so many people at once, many of us have been pushed to seek refuge in our deen at its purest form as a chance to remind ourselves of the purpose of our creation, the root word of our identity as Muslims: submission to Allah.

Although we may not be able to experience the adrenaline of our collectively botched sleep schedules colliding as we embrace one another at the entrance of the masjid first thing in the morning, we still have reason to celebrate: self-betterment. 

In “Eid Under Quarantine: A Ramadan Reflection” we bring you the stories of women in our community in excerpts from interviews done by Sarah Maung to bring us their own unique story, each of them captured through different mediums. 

Each Muslim woman from different cultures recount the shifts in their relationship to Allah, to their deen, and to one another brought on by the pandemic in a series of self-reflections. It is time to celebrate the bright colors of our cultures and our strengthening Iman that make us who we are as individual Muslims and as a singular community. 

In these excerpts of interviews, Muslim women express their feelings about COVID-19 and Ramadan. 

Photo - Sarah Maung, Art - Salma HQ
Saima Usmani // Pakistani // Residency in Neurology 

“I never wanted to be the type of girl that had all these ridiculous expectations and was disappointed. So I kept my expectations at the bare minimum. I didn’t care about the reception. I only cared about my bachelorette party and the actual religious ceremony which I wanted to do at my masjid, which was a reasonable request. And I wanted my students to be there, which was another reasonable request because the wedding ceremony itself would be after school, everything was planned out. I didn’t care about the food, I didn’t care about my outfit. I just wanted the people I love to be there. 

The one person who was kind of my go-to and I just talked to that person just relaxed me and just made me forget was actually my fiancé.  

It was perfect. I didn’t need anything else, it was perfect. It was fine. It was in my house. We had cake, the pictures were terrible, but it was lovely. 

In this time, where you realize what’s really important you know you go to work and you see people passing away alone. And you know, you know, crossing over and you think about death, you go home and you have to decide, which 10 people matter to you the most that are going to be there on the biggest day of your life and the only people physically there on the biggest day of your life, you spend in the holy month of Ramadan basically alone, and all those things are beautiful in their own way.” 

 

Photo, Art - Salma HQ
Lamia Rashid// Palestinian // College Student

“It’s not like a war you know once a war is declared ‘over’ it’s over. You know, COVID-19 is like biological warfare. So when you go out, who knows about the next couple months right, like you could get it.

I could stay in my house forever, but you have to go outside and what if I’m getting groceries and then like I just get it. And then I pass on to my parents  that’s the biggest part I feel with all my mental health, it’s the stress of  it just being out there and I can’t control it and it could wreck so much damage. 

During Ramadan, no matter who you are, no matter what your level of faith, no matter how much you practice Islam during the year we all get together and we’re like alright guys we’re in this together.”

 

Photo - Sarah Maung, Art - Salma HQ
Sharfaa Sabir // Sri Lankan // College Student

“My grandma has always been here for Ramadan, but she’s actually stuck in Sri Lanka because of coronavirus. So this is the first Ramadan without her – even though I think she’d been here every single year I can’t remember a time when she wasn’t here. 

I think that it’s never really gonna go back to normal, because now every time I go out I’m  so aware of everything that I touch – I’m so used to the way things are right now. I don’t even know how it’s gonna be after. I don’t think it’s gonna ever be back normal.

No one thought it would get to this level, I guess I don’t think that anyone thought it was going to get as bad. It’s just heartbreaking hearing about these families (who have been) separated (and) the people who are being paid under the table (who have lost their income).

And we’re scared for my dad, my dad’s really high risk.”

 

Photo, Art - Salma HQ
Ameena Qobrtay // Circassian // College Student

“It was really challenging for me to learn to let go of things that I can’t control, and I say this all the time, to my friends and stuff and they think I sound crazy but I think that was the most challenging thing for me this Ramadan – to really let go of all the things that are literally out of my power. 

I think I learned you can’t control everything and that’s a good thing. It’s not meant to be that way – everything’s written.

For a long time I just couldn’t accept it and I would just argue with my family all the time about the way the government was handling things and that’s not very productive either. It’s not my family’s fault.

We don’t have the opportunity to grieve so much over coronavirus losses because we’re in this society that’s so fixated on ‘keep going, keep going, keep going’ – it would be nice to grieve on the loss of life and also mourn the opportunities that we all missed out on.”

 

Photo, Art - Salma HQ
Zainab Wiswall // Bengali // College Graduate

“In the beginning (of Ramadan) I was fasting so then that made it hard to go out and do stuff, and around here we have a curfew so once you have the energy and you eat, you can’t go out. Then, after my period I got sick so then I couldn’t fast so that’s probably the thing that’s affected my mind. It feels weird to not fast and it just feels like you’re not doing Ramadan at all, there’s no question, there’s no taraweeh.

It hasn’t really felt like Ramadan to me – unless if you’re surrounded by very religious family where everyone’s really making the effort to have a masjid environment, unless you’re doing a lot of  personal effort to just pray all night. It would just feel like a Ramadan that you kind of pass.”

 

Photo, Art - Salma HQ
Duaa Ali // Sudanese // College Student

“(This Ramadan) has made me kind of realize how much the community did have an impact on my life. Just in general for me practicing my deen when it came to Ramadan. Before I was so used to going to the masjid then everyone else’s praying taraweeh, I’m going to pray taraweeh.

Whereas when you’re at home, there’s not really that pressure or anyone there around you kind of pushing you to just pray or read Quran or just do good because you don’t really have that community around. I have my family with me and we’ll  pray taraweeh while we’re together but throughout the day, throughout actual fast, for the most part I’m sitting there on my computer. 

Without the community I don’t feel as obligated.”

 

Photo - Sarah Maung, Art - Salma HQ
Zainab Ali // Pakistani // College Graduate

“The MIST (Muslim Interscholastic Tournament) theme was trusting the process and putting your trust in Allah (SWT). We were complaining about it being so early. But, had we even pushed it  a week – we’re the only region this year that I think is able to have in person – that it was one of my last happy memories

I was  in the basement eating dates and chugging water and also just trying to complete the exams.

We take so many things for granted, we take the Masjid for granted, we take our socialization for granted. I take the iftar parties that I expect it to attend, those that we expect to host for granted. 

There’s that joke, ‘when the shaytan is locked up during Ramadan and you realize it was you the whole time.’ I think it was the same thing opposite to where obviously the angels, and Allah (SWT) are not locked up, Astaghfirullah, but at the same time like all the institutions that I used to get closer to them (Allah and the angels) are locked up.”