Ramadan 2021: How Bristol’s Muslim Community Observes Holy Month During Coronavirus Pandemic

Tens of thousands of Muslims around Bristol mark the second Ramadan to be affected by the coronavirus.

Restrictions due to the pandemic this year are relaxed more than they were in 2020, when the holy month began just weeks after the first nationwide lockdown.

Ramadan began last month on Monday April 12 and is expected to end on May 12 or 13, depending on the lunar cycle.

The Islamic calendar is based on the cycle of the moon, which is why the dates change each year by around 10 days.

Ramadan falls in the ninth month and involves fasting between dawn and sunset, and an increased focus on prayer, good deeds, self-discipline, and self-improvement.

Norah El-Gohary, head of cultural awareness at the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society, said people are adjusting to the changes this year after the tighter restrictions in 2020.

The teacher-trainee said, “It’s always a change, but people are getting the most out of the practice within the restrictions, as everyone has been doing for the rest of their life right now.

“We’ve been going through this for a year now and people are used to it, are more relaxed in general and people get vaccinated – it’s different.

“You cannot have a large gathering or party, but you are allowed to be with another family [under the two household rule]. “

Is the Grand Iftar taking place?

The 2011 census suggested there were over 22,000 Muslims living in Bristol, and the city is proud to host one of the country’s biggest Grand Iftar events.

Usually thousands of people gather along St Marks Road in Easton to break the fast together, with people of all faiths and none joining together to sit and eat to mark Eid, the end of Ramadan. .

The gallery below shows how crowds lined the street in 2019, but this year the event will not be able to take place for the second year in a row.

Bristol Live understands that a virtual event is scheduled instead.

It was reportedly just days before the government eased the lockdown again on May 17, but even then gatherings of more than 30 people outside will still be banned.

Norah said she believes the government’s roadmap is likely designed to ensure restrictions are still in place during Eid, when there would typically be mass rallies across the country.

The 37-year-old, who lives in Clifton, added: “It makes sense – when you break the fast you usually go to people and eat together, which would have been risky.

“This year people can potentially meet outside in gardens, unlike last year where you couldn’t see anyone at all because it was a ‘correct’ lockdown.”

Are mosques open?

Another difference this year is that places of worship are allowed to open, with some restrictions in place.

Norah said: “This year you can go to the mosque, whereas last year it was not open because Ramadan was at the very beginning of the lockdown, so it was quite restrictive.”

She said she chose to pray at home with her family because space at the mosque is limited and she doesn’t want to take the place of someone who needs more interaction.

The mom of four explained: “You need to register [for a place] and i feel like others need it more than i do, especially people who are lonely and miss seeing people.

“A lot of people, especially the single elderly, have suffered the most because they worry about their health and they miss all social gatherings.

“Generally [observing Ramadan] is a personal and spiritual experience, but obviously a big part is being with other people and sharing, which people haven’t been able to do for a long time. “

File image of people at Easton Jamia Mosque breaking the fast at Iftar

Norah is a religious education trainee teacher at Bristol Cathedral Choir School, which is due to host a virtual Iftar after staff participate in a sponsored fast.

Fundraising takes place in partnership with the Bristol Muslim Cultural Society, with donations going to Bristol Food Banks.

She said it was “awesome” to see her school become so actively involved in recognizing and celebrating Ramadan.

Muslims are encouraged to continue to receive their coronavirus vaccines if offered to them, with officials offering assurances that the vaccine will not break their fast and contain no animal products.

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