Ramadan: How will the holy month of fasting take place this year?

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The Muslim holy month of Ramadan has begun for the second year in a row under coronavirus restrictions.

Here, PA looks at what happens during the month and how it has been affected by the pandemic.

Ramadan is in the ninth month of the Muslim calendar and is the holy month of fasting.

– When does Ramadan take place?

Because the Muslim calendar is a lunar calendar, Ramadan falls approximately 10 days earlier each year in the Gregorian calendar, according to Muslimaid.org.

In 2021 Ramadan began on April 12 and will end on May 11.

– What happens during Ramadan?

During Ramadan Muslims abstain from food and drink during daylight hours.

People are encouraged to engage in charity and devote extra time to spiritual activities such as praying and reading the Koran.

The end of Ramadan is celebrated with Eid al-Fitr, the “Feast of Fast-Breaking” and is celebrated with special baked pastries, the exchanging of gifts and family and prayer in mosques – among other things.

– Is anyone exempt from fasting during Ramadan?

Young children, pregnant women, the old, the sick and travellers are examples of those who are exempt from fasting during the month.

– How has Ramadan been affected by coronavirus?

Last year mosques across the world were closed due to the pandemic and Muslims were encouraged to pray at home rather than congregate in crowded spaces.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) published guidance for worshippers, which advised celebrating Ramadan “digitally” and sharing Iftar – the meal with which Muslims end their daily fasting – with family over FaceTime rather than in person.

The Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) said the closure of mosques last year was “extremely painful” but obeying lockdown restrictions was a “moral obligation”.

Worshippers observe social distancing at the Bradford Central Mosque
Worshippers observe social distancing at the Bradford Central Mosque in Bradford, West Yorkshire, last year (Danny Lawson/PA)

In 2021 strict health and safety protocols have been put in place around the world to allow the holy month to go ahead.

The East London Mosque and Muslim Centre, one of the largest mosques in Europe and the biggest in the UK, has tightened its opening times and shortened its prayer time – usually two hours long.

The mosque has asked that worshippers to bring their own prayer mats and bags for shoes, with sanitation stations and a one-way system in place, and no one under the age of 12 should attend.

Traditionally, the mosque hosts a big meal after sunset so everyone can break their fast together but this year donations are being made to the mosque’s foodbank instead.

– Can people get vaccinated during Ramadan?

Concerns have been raised by some in the community about coronavirus vaccines interfering with Ramadan, though Muslim scholars across the world have said vaccinations do not break the fast, and people should not delay their jab.

Some vaccination sites will stay open later during Ramadan so Muslims can get vaccinated after breaking their fast in the evening.

But Dr Farzana Hussain, a Muslim and GP at The Project Surgery in east London, said there was no need for those adhering to a fast to avoid daylight hours.

She said: “The Koran says saving your life is the most important thing: to save one life is to save the whole of humanity. It’s a responsibility of a practising Muslim to take their vaccine.”

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