The date of Ramadan is fixed on the Islamic lunar calendar but can shift in the Gregorian calendar.
Muslims in the UK are expected to begin fasting for the holy month of Ramadan on April 23. The period of fasting from dawn until dusk will last for 30 days.
The month of Ramadan is the holiest period in the Islamic calendar, commemorating the month when God presented the Holy Quran to the Prophet Mohammed. Muslims celebrate the religious festival through abstaining from food and drink from dawn to sunset and performing additional prayers.
As the precise time of sunset and sunrise is key to observing the month of fasting, many believers use apps and online resources to check the exact time of iftar (the meal to break fast) and suhoor (the meal before sunrise). The times vary from country to country.
Though the majority of Muslim believers opt to fast during Ramadan, there are some exceptions. Children, travelers, the elderly, women who have recently given birth or are pregnant or breastfeeding, and women who are menstruating are not expected to fast.
Ramadan is a time for family, reflection, and charity. Families cherish the opportunity to gather to break the fast at sunset together. Every year the month of Ramadan sees an increase of worshippers at mosques all over the world.
Ramadan amid COVID-19
Ramadan 2020, however, will be a holy month like no other. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the closure of mosques across the UK and gatherings of more than two people are banned.
The UK is currently operating under strict social distancing measures. Authorities ask residents to remain at home except for necessary excursions to purchase necessities and to perform daily exercises. This means that thousands of families will be unable to enjoy the month together.
As Ramadan nears, Britain’s Muslims are hitting headlines for their contributions to the country’s healthcare system and to civil society efforts to support vulnerable families and individuals.
Since the outbreak of the pandemic in the UK, a rising number of National Health Service (NHS) workers have died after contracting the virus while treating COVID-19 patients.
The first four doctors to die from the novel coronavirus in service were all British Muslims. Alfa Sa’adu, Amged El Hawrani, Adil El Tayar, and Habib Zaidi all died from the virus after risking their lives to help their patients.
General Secretary of the British Islamic Medical Association Dr. Salman Waqar paid tribute to the doctors, saying: “They have the ultimate sacrifice while fighting this disease. We urge everyone to do their part and stop further deaths from happening – stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives.”
According to the Muslim Council of Great Britain, Muslims represent 4.8% of the British population, 47% of whom were born in the UK.