My family and all Ismaili families around the world, are going through an extraordinary experience, in which we have missed celebrating ChandRaat of Shaban last month, and now ChandRaat of Ramadan, and the big night of Laylat al-Qadr like never before. For the Ismaili Muslim community, at this time of the year, the experience of not going to JamatKhana to commemorate the daily rituals is certainly a somber reality. But, even amidst Covid-19, Mawlana Hazar Imam has brought us all closer together in prayer. We could sit together daily and pray for not just ourselves but for all humanity in the world.
For Ismailis, ChandRaat this time around is different, we must all stay home. But this is not the only reason that I feel sad. While cases of the novel coronavirus in the world only began to attract attention in January, the world was already on the verge of a pandemic. Wuhan – the Chinese city where coronavirus surfaced – was the first place to lockdown to control its spread. After the virus’ rapid diffusion into countries like Italy, Iran, and South Korea, the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a “global” pandemic. With the largest number of cases in Europe, Italy became the hardest-hit country due to the coronavirus outbreak. As of now, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases around the world has crossed 2.5 million and over 200,000 reported deaths. My home country USA has over 826,000 cases and over 46,000 deaths. The shelter-in-place order in the country has been extended until May 31st, while in Saudi Arabia, Makkah and Medina are closed for Umrah and Ziarat and there are serious discussions about pilgrims not being allowed to do Haj this year.
On May 27, 1996 Mawlana Hazar Imam was conferred an honorary doctorate of law, at Brown University and was invited to address graduates at the commencement ceremony.
He remarked, “For the last fifty years, our planet has been frozen by a paralyzing bi-polar political vortex which we call the Cold War. During those years, many allowed their views to stagnate and harden into notions so dependable that they became unrevisable dogmas. My capitalism versus your communism. Your eastern bloc versus our western bloc, left versus right. But like the Berlin Wall, our old bi-polar system was dismantled almost overnight and with it, the black and white world to which we had grown accustomed. Unfortunately views and thought habits, although intangible, are less easily broken than bricks and politics. Learned human behavior dies hard. The world has become a hurtling place in which change occurs constantly and in which we need to learn again to evolve. Free now, from an artificial tug-of-war, in which most were only expected to identify with the rope, we are facing a world of doubt and questioning and universal uncertainty, the new hallmark of our time. Growing from our thawing earth today, is the unsure and uncomfortable process of discovering and learning about mobility and change.”
This time, I plan to pray and spend time with my wife Rukhsana at home. We will be preparing everything for the holy month of Ramadan, albeit slightly differently. We do not want anything to be left out and the virtual ChandRaat tasbih and zikar should continue in our home.
I am debating… is Allah reviving the DEEN of Islam through the source of Covid-19?
We don’t know how our lives will transform in a matter of weeks by Eid al-Fitr. I am sure, moving forward, this pandemic will bring a big global ‘change’ in our lifestyle, including job/work and business, it has created a new reality for us.
Isn’t it remarkable that I find myself thinking: Thank you Allah for the ability to freely breathe in oxygen my entire life, I see too many people on ventilators paying the price for oxygen these days.
Unaware of what the future holds, our families will begin to fast. My family is already formed the habit of participating in almost all the Jamati events through WhatsApp, Facebook, and Zoom nowadays. It is one way in which we have kept our spirits high even during a gloomy period. The coronavirus will have a huge impact on our fasting month, as we always used to invite or go out for Iftar parties or make fruit chaat, some dates, pakoras, milk shake and other delicious dishes made at home to share with friends.
We miss JamatKhana services and activities and how the holiday this year has been altered by Covid-19 for the Ismaili Muslim community around the world with no Jamati gatherings, no celebratory Ginan with Jamati members, and no sharing of cookies and chai treats outside in the lobby or social hall. Jamati activities have gone online through electronic media, and we have been saying Dua, Ginan, and reading Quran and Farman at home.
Our family will be sitting together at the feast table eating and thanking Allah for this life and for keeping us safe from Covid-19. We also plan to video chat with our relatives via Zoom, because our family is all over USA. As a family, we were all usually very busy in our lives. Some of us would not even have time to pray together. But this time has enabled us to sit together as a family and come closer to Allah. Maybe this is what our Mawla wanted, for us to be united.
We really wish and pray that this virus passes by the end of Ramadan, In the meanwhile, after the evening ChandRaat prayers, we will celebrate at our home with kheer and puri to samosa and biryani, all the best dishes will be prepared to commemorate the beginning of Ramadan. While going to the JamatKhana is always a beautiful experience on the night of ChandRaat, I really miss the special ChandRaat articles, Tasbih, Chanta, Niyaz, Sukhrit, and Nandi; yet, I consider that we are fortunate to be a part of the virtual Jamati activities in times of Covid-19. We are grateful for the Ismaili Institutions which, for our ease, have gone out of their way to connect us with the needed Jamati services and other facilities.
Al-Quran, Surah Al-Ma’ida 5, ayat 55 – “Your protector is only Allah and His Messenger and those who believe, who perform the prayer and give charity while bowing down.”
During these unprecedented times, one may find it challenging to be confined at home. The prayer halls are closed but our hearts don’t have to be!
These days, my home is my JamatKhana.