This year sees an unusual Ramadan for many families, staff members and students at Swansea University.
Twelve weeks ago, I was sitting with staff and representatives of our student societies, including Islamic, Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Saudi, Malaysia and Paksoc members at our Bay Campus talking about how we can jointly organise the Ramadan celebrations during the busy exam period.
Usually during Ramadan, about 200 people would meet in the night at both of our campuses for prayers and to have their evening Iftar meal together. However, this year saw most students migrate back to their home countries following the Covid-19 pandemic to have Iftar with their families. I will also be having time with my family, as well as speaking to other loved ones and friends over Zoom or FaceTime.
There is such a strong community atmosphere at Swansea University and during Ramadan, hundreds of people come together to share meals and build a family they didn’t have before and that is a special feeling for everyone. Going without that will be very different this year as we go through such an unprecedented time in modern history.
For the first time, we are relying on digital technology for prayer as well as contact with our loved ones and their dependent families in Swansea and further afield. At the University, we usually organise a mass congregation on Eid Day where thousands of people meet to mark the end of Ramadan, but this year that won’t be happening.
However, with the help of the Swansea Central Mosque, Sameera Foundation and the Swansea University Mosque, we have been able to run weekly food banks for the most vulnerable as well as asylum seekers, homeless and our postgraduate students with families in our community. Even during the isolation period, vulnerable people have been allowed to collect food while obeying social distancing measures and each day we have been managed to deliver over 200 hot meals to students and families who live in university accommodation and properties around the city centre, thanks to the help of the Welsh Islamic Cultural Association (WICAS) and our fantastic student services team.
As Muslims we are taught to be charitable in our nature, and Ramadan is perfect because it is essentially a whole month to reflect on ourselves. This kind of gesture helps you appreciate what you have in life and what is important, which is more apparent now than ever before. We will still fast and pray, contribute to charity, and look out for one another.
I particularly made an effort to pick up the phone and ring regular worshippers and WhatsApp our students and staff to see how they are getting on at home and whether they need any support with shopping, prescriptions or those who might just want to chat.
The mosque activity might well be shut down temporarily, but we are still serving our community and that is incredibly important during these unprecedented times. The nature of our worship during Ramadan has changed but the message of brotherhood and reminders of teaching of Quran and the message of Prophet Mohammed (PUH) remains.
Until we have a vaccine for this pandemic, the digital platform will be key in delivering our religious information.
Eid Mubarak to you all.
Written by Dr Mahaboob Basha
External Relations and Engagement Officer – Energy Safety Research Institute, Swansea University, Wales, UK.