COVID-19 Challenges Houston Muslims in Ramadan, But the Faithful Say Blessings Abound

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With the ongoing global threat of COVID-19, it comes as no surprise that Ramadan 2020 will look different than most Muslims imagined only a month ago.


Feeding the poor and needy is an act that draws us closer to Allah. We earn His forgiveness, mercies and blessings through this act of charity.

“Anyone who looks after and works for a widow and a poor person is like a warrior fighting for Allah?s cause, or like a person who fasts during the day and prays all night. (Bukhari)

However, many of the Houston-area faithful are heading into the holy month with the intent of slowing down, drawing closer to Allah, and strengthening their faith.

Husband and wife Omar Navarro and Nidah Chatriwala of
Pasadena, Texas, both recently lost their jobs, a direct result of the ongoing
health crisis. They also live with Chatriwala’s parents, one of whom is
suffering from cancer. Needless to say, there is stress and uncertainty as they
move into Ramadan.

📚 Read Also: Your Guide to Revival in Ramadan

“Our typical routine of activities like going for prayers in
the mosque, iftars at each other’s homes, going to fundraising galas – none of
that is possible in Ramadan,”
she told “This (virus situation) has already forced us
into a new norm in our existing routine, and it will do it again in Ramadan.”

Rubina Zaman, a Houston-area dentist, said she too will miss
the gatherings which are so much a part of the Ramadan ritual. “I will be
really sad about that,” she said.

But both women said there are blessings to be found in what
they acknowledge are tough and challenging times.

Test of Faith

Chatriwala, who until recently worked in digital marketing
for a construction company, is looking at the situation as a test of faith.

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“My faith is what keeps me strong and gets me through any
trial, big or small,” she said, adding as long as she and her family are
healthy and virus free then she can focus on the good she sees around her.

“I am very positive about this situation because even with
the bad there will always be some good,” Chatriwala said.

“The death toll is rising, but there are businesses still
actively producing personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. I’ve
even seen some kids in their backyards making face masks and face shields.
They’re doing their part to be local heroes, and that’s great to see.”

Zaman, who is only seeing one or two emergency patients a week, said this will be the first Ramadan in many years that she won’t be working full time. She said she looks forward to not being exhausted, focusing more on the spiritual nature of the month and cooking healthy meals for her family iftars, something she hasn’t been able to do in past Ramadans.

“I feel like the slowing down is a blessing,” she said.

COVID-19 Challenges Houston Muslims in Ramadan, But the Faithful Say Blessings Abound - About Islam

Challenging Muslim Converts

Navarro, Chatriwala’s husband, agreed with his wife the
situation is a test from Allah, but he worries it might be even more of a
burden for single Muslim converts who will be alone when they break their fast.

“Many of them don’t have a family (who celebrate Ramadan or Eid) and so they usually break their fast at the mosque. Now they’ll have nowhere to go,” said Navarro.

As a convert himself, Navarro said he speaks from experience
about how hard it is for single Muslims to practice their faith alone,
particularly during the holy month of fasting when gatherings are

“I worry that nobody thinks of them and it may push them
away from Islam,” he said. “I really would like to see some community outreach
for them.”

Chatriwala encouraged all Muslims to be cognizant of
reaching out to each other as much as possible this Ramadan, as it’s likely
there will be no communal gatherings at mosques.

She said people should take advantage of technology to check in on one another, maybe use video technology to share iftar meals together and send photos of new `Eid outfits even if they can’t join together for `Eid prayer.

“We can still have fun and celebrate and just be positive,”
she said.

For her part, Zaman is starting on the fun early. She
recently enlisted her 12-year-old son Jad Choucair to begin decorating their home
with holiday decorations.

“I don’t foresee things going back to normal just like that,
so we are going to make the best of it,” she said.


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