As the world tried to come to terms with the coronavirus pandemic’s death and doom, Muslims around the world observed Ramzan – the ninth and most sacred month in the Islamic calendar, in which it is believed the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad.
Ramzan is one of the five pillars of Islam, where Muslims fast and do charity. It was a test of faith for the community as Muslims went about their normal activities while not eating or even drinking water for sometimes as long as 15 hours a day. This year has been extremely trying for the community given the lockdown and its economic fallout.
But instead of being cowed down, the Muslim community went all out to help those in need.
Journalists such as Rana Ayyub raised funds, distributed essential supplies to 25,000 families, and arranged safe transport for thousands of labourers. Organisations like the Jamaat-e-Islami Hind set up a 24-hour helpdesk to ensure workers traveling on the roads got food, medicines and sanitary napkins.
Common citizens have been trending #EidAtHome and #EidForMigrants on Twitter, making pledges and exhorting others to say no to Eid shopping this time, and instead use the money to help others.
CAA, NRC, Delhi riots and corona jihadists
But all this followed a very taxing period for the Muslim community. Ramzan and the months leading up to it have been more than a test of faith for Muslims in India. It required extreme patience and resolve as the community was singled out at each instance even as fears of losing citizenship under the CAA-NRC increased by the day.
The democratic and peaceful protests against the law were either brutally crushed or labeled ‘anti-national’.
The Delhi riots that followed and the arrest of young Muslim activists, while BJP leaders such as Kapil Mishra and Anurag Thakur went scot free despite making hate speeches and publicly chanting incendiary slogans, further left the community insecure.
These arrests are still taking place with several students from Jamia Millia Islamia, including a pregnant Safoora Zargar, languishing in jail at a time when authorities are releasing even murder convicts due to Covid-19.
Then came the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in March and the Indians’ slide into a collective race to outperform each other in bigotry. Even a health emergency brought on by the coronavirus pandemic became a tool to target the whole Muslim community — the pro-BJP media leading from the front and the Narendra Modi government maintaining a stoic silence as the hate spread far and wide.
Suresh Tiwari, a BJP MLA from UP’s Deoria, asked people not to buy vegetables from Muslim vendors. Remarks like these ensured that many Muslims not only lost their livelihood in such dire times but also led to them being physically assaulted at several places.
Delhi BJP MP Parvesh Verma posted a two-month-old video of Muslims offering namaz in large numbers to claim lockdown violation. He was soon called out by Delhi Police and was forced to delete the tweet.
Despite the continuous provocations and the violence that followed these false accusations, India’s Muslim community did not take the bait and people stayed true to their faith and belief. Muslims not only abided by the direction of the government but also went on to donate plasma for other Covid-19 patients.
As Ramzan arrived, everyone from public intellectuals, religious leaders to common people came together to follow their religious practices within the enforced Covid-19 guidelines.
Ramzan – prayers, fasting, charity and bonding over iftar
Some of my most precious memories from childhood are from Eid. The Ramzan leading up to it. Staying up late with elders for sehri, the evening time iftar with friends and family, the roza khushai – when someone keeps a fast for the first time – the mandatory shopping on chaand raat , the night before Eid and finally, the most cherished one of all, going for Eid prayers with my father and the eidi that follows.
The lockdown meant this Eid was not going to be spent with parents, siblings, family and friends. While the reasons are practical, you can’t help longing for your loved ones. The Rs 500 eidi that my father usually gives is still priceless to me.
Unfortunately, countless children this year will miss out on this gift as either they are away from home or resources are so stretched their parents can hardly afford it.
This was also the first Ramzan when Muslims couldn’t offer the mandatory tarabi – additional prayers after isha where the whole Quran is recited — in the mosques that remained shut due to the lockdown.
But religious scholars stepped in and ensured that people knew it was fine to offer the tarabi in their homes. Fatwa was also issued in advance to let people know that Eid prayers could be offered at home.
— Mahtab महताब مہتاب (@MahtabNama) May 13, 2020
Eid on the road, zakat and charity
With hardly any respite from the sweltering heat as people walk barefoot or in tattered footwear, scores of people are finding it difficult to get anything to eat for their survival, let alone having a sumptuous sehri and a carbohydrate-rich iftar. Those who are fasting are depending on the goodwill of Samaritans who are providing them food and the much needed water.
This is the reality. Everything else is fake
— Ravi Nair (@t_d_h_nair) May 16, 2020
Imagine the plight of these people, who would throng the festival bazaars in large numbers to buy new clothes, gifts and food items. The yearly saving for the occasion is now being spent on trying to reach their homes and on food just to stay alive.
But the Muslim community, itself under severe financial strain due to loss of jobs and shutting down of businesses, organised and distributed relief to migrants on the road.
Several within the community decided to use zakat – it is mandatory for all Muslims to give 2.5 per cent of their total savings above a minimum amount to the needy – to help those in need of food and other essentials.
— زماں (@Delhiite_) May 16, 2020
Jamat e Islami Hind has set up their food stall permanently on Bhopal Bypass to help migrant labors. pic.twitter.com/wcZQENxN4O
— Batolebaaz (@AntiCAA_NPR) May 15, 2020
The Muslim community is trying to do all this while being vilified, slandered and constantly targeted.
But, what is faith if it is not tested, and what better way to test it than to not lose patience and get on with your beliefs.
Views are personal.