Remona Aly
Sunday 03 May 2020 BBC Radio 4

Radio 4: A Virtual Ramadan

A Virtual Ramadan – from digital iftars to zoom weddings: how Muslims are rethinking a new kind of Ramadan (Listen from 23 minutes 40 seconds via link)



Ramadan has always been the spiritual and social highlight of my calendar. From big family iftars where we’re vying for the last samosa to the togetherness of Ramadan’s communal night prayers or ‘taraweh’. But this year, the holy month has taken on a new personality and my digital Ramadan is now in full swing.

Last year, I joined hundreds of people to break the fast at London landmarks, when the call to prayer resounded across iconic spots like Trafalgar Square. The Open Iftar initiative run by Ramadan Tent Project has now decamped online to bring us virtual iftars, in a bid to hold onto the cyber community spirit.

The pandemic has proved no barrier to Islamic nikahs or weddings, which have prevailed during lockdown. Here, we’ve got one of those rather messy Zoom get-togethers we’re all experiencing at the moment as members of both families – from grandparents to grandkids – logged on from the UK, Pakistan, Qatar and Sri Lanka to witness the happy union of Mehreen and Charles, their online nuptials performed here by Sultan Ahmed of The Nikah Company.

Cyber spirituality is reaching new heights. Sufi zikrs – or meditation chants – are going global. Here the mevlevi zikr which emulates the mystic poet Rumi, is led by US-based Kabir and Camille Helminski to reach living rooms from London to Pakistan. Zoom has brought a new dimension to these global zikrs, where participants can view and reflect with each other, deepening the communal spiritual experience.

It’s inspiring to see people thinking outside the box – and for eight-year-old Yahya from Bradford he’s using the box itself, crafting his own DIY mosque out of cardboard.

Ramadan is the month when Muslims draw closer to the Quran, and for Madinah Javed, who has recited the Quran in the Scottish parliament, it’s an opportunity to highlight her online campaign #femalereciters. This Ramadan has brought even more traction to Madinah’s cause which raises awareness of women Quran reciters – often seen as a domain of men.

Far from being an introvert, Ramadan is embracing its virtual extrovert presence. And even though communities can’t congregate in a physical sense, these new online avenues have enabled people to come together like never before.