Razeen Gutta is a student journalist at Wits Vuvuzela. He has documented his friends and family’s activities during Ramadan in his hometown of Mafikeng in the North West province.
The holy month of Ramadan is the best month of the year for Muslims around the globe. But like large parts of our daily lives, the covid-19 pandemic has altered the way we observe annual religious practices and festivities in the last year.
Ramadan of 2020 was the most unique in living memory. Lockdown levels three through five rendered many places of worship inaccessible, and everything was completely different from how it had been before. This year, under level one restrictions, things are still not the same as before, however, being able to leave the house has certainly given us an important part of lives back.
Places of Worship
The reopening of masjids alongside other places of worship under level one regulations was an important boost ahead of Ramadan this year. During the thirty-day period, the thirty chapters of the Holy Qur’an are recited in our evening prayers known as “Taraweeh”. These prayers are led by memorisers of the Qur’an in congregations all around the world where one chapter is recited each evening.
Despite the sanitiser bottle at the entrance following a covid-19 screening, plus a limit on the number of worshipers in attendance, one of the greatest blessings this year is having our masjids open. Especially now when it is so important that we all stand united and pray during these testing times.
When Fridays come along, the “Jummah Salaah” takes place. This is a special congregational prayer that can only be practised in groups where an opening discourse is delivered to the public by a learned scholar before prayers take place. Jummah Salaah takes place at midday on a Friday throughout the year, and masjids usually see large crowds of worshippers in attendance.
When masjids were first allowed to open, the indoor capacity was not enough to cater for all the worshippers that wished to attend on a Friday, while adhering to essential social distancing measures. Due to this, our local masjid (like many around the country) opted to hold the prayers outside. Since outdoor gatherings are safer and can accommodate more people, the parking lot was used while still implementing the mandatory wearing of masks as well as social distancing protocols. This way, everyone could take part in the prayers while staying safe.
Praying at Home
There are times when staying at home perhaps feels safer, this provides the opportunity for intimate family prayers to take place. Small congregations at home with friends and family were something we often practised this year. Apart from giving others a chance to visit the masjid in person, where the number of worshippers was limited, it was also a good opportunity to spend time with our loved ones.
Barbeque & Bubbly
For the duration of Ramadan, we fast from sunrise to sunset; and after a day of abstaining from food and drink, evening braais and shisha sessions are a big trend in my social circle. This year we did that on a much smaller scale than usual, but there was no stopping us from firing up the barbeque and lighting the hubbly bubbly on those late Ramadan evenings.
Every Ramadan brings forth some tasty treats. The evening meals are often feasts, with all sorts of treats on offer, and this year our Saturday steak night was one of the feasts worth shouting about.
Made by my mum, the succulent whole beef fillet was first stuffed with fresh garlic, chill, spring onion and rosemary before being marinated with an array of Indian spices. Finally, it was cooked to perfection in butter and served with caramelised onions. Delcious!
Big Match Days and Gaming Sessions
As massive sports fans, my friends and I always look forward to getting together for big games. This year, the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket spectacle was much hyped in the early parts of Ramadan, while on the football front, the UEFA Champions League and English Premiership continued to entertain. There wasn’t much to go by for the afternoon fixtures due to the fasting, however, the late kick-offs certainly made for some fun times.
We knew that we had to stay safe whilst enjoying ourselves, so our groups were much smaller than they usually are and we spent most of our time outside when we did meet in groups. Setting up the projector on the wall with some PlayStation was definitely a good idea as well!
FEATURED IMAGE: Kebab braais at the masjid in Ramadan are a Saturday tradition in Mafikeng. Photo: Razeen Gutta