As Ramadan comes to an end and Eid-ul-Fitr approaches, Muslims from Nottingham reflect on how “different” the Holy month has been this year due to the pandemic.

While places of worship remain closed and large gatherings tend to be banned due to coronavirus outbreak, people observed Ramadan in other ways.

Normally, people would get together with their friends, families and neighbours to break their fasts in the evening at “Iftar” and perform the nightly prayer “Taraweeh” in a congregation at mosques.

As for some this unusual month of Ramadan has been “a spiritual journey like never before” others think its has been “awkward and difficult”.

‘Social interactions and congregational prayers add spiritual energy to the month of Ramadan.’

Dr Musharraf Hussain

Dr Musharraf Hussain, 62, is an Islamic scholar and the CEO of Karimia institute in Nottingham.

As the Imam (Islamic leader) of his local mosque he said: “Mosques are usually the busiest during Ramadan.

“It is very different this year as we are deprived of all social interactions, teachings and the communal evening Iftar that goes on normally.”

He has been running daily lessons online for his congregation and said that although it does not feel like Ramadan the situation has taught him to value social relationships.

He said: “The situation has made us realize the importance of congregational gatherings and the richness of spiritual connections.

When asked about how he would celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr he said: “It is not going to be as joyous but I hope to celebrate with my family.”

“It is going to be far poorer but Eid will be celebrated via Zoom.”

‘All our activities are now done over the phone or with just our immediate family.’

Dr Irfan Malik

Dr Irfan Malik, 51, vice-president of the Nottingham chapter of Ahmadiyya Muslims said that the community has adjusted to the lockdown guidelines and said that they are necessary.

He said: “We all are keeping in touch on a daily basis and the social side is ongoing but everything is done online now.”

For Dr Malik this Ramadan has been more spiritual and has allowed him to spend more time with his family.

He said: “There are four people in my family and we perform Salah (Islamic prayer) together.

“It is different from a mosque but the purpose and the frequency of the prayer is exactly the same.”

The Nottingham GP added: “When my father’s generation came to England in the 1960’s, there were no mosques at that time.

“My extended family has been through these similar experiences when they first came to England.”

‘This Ramadan has been more beneficial than any other in my lifetime.’

For Shahida K, 39, an outreach support worker at Nottingham Muslim Women’s Network, the Holy month has helped her learn more about her religion and focus on her prayers.

She said: “When you are a mother, it is difficult to make that time for spiritual learning.

“With my kids at home now I make it a point to prioritize my prayers and I have tried to make the most of this month.”

Shahida said that it has also been “a bit lonely” as she missed going to the mosque and cooking food for her neighbours which is a common tradition during the month of Ramadan.

She said: “Due to Covid-19 I do not want people to feel uncomfortable and forced to accept food when they don’t want to because of coronavirus fears.”

When asked if she thinks Eid would be different this year she said: “I moved from my family home in 2005 and since then my family and I have been going there every Eid.

“It is going to be very difficult as I will not be able to see my parents and that is heartbreaking.”