For the next month, nearly 1.8 billion Muslims around the world will observe Ramadan, Islam’s most sacred holiday. The holiday is intended to hone spiritual discipline; it is characterized by long periods of fasting and prayer, as well as an increased sense of charity and generosity throughout the community.
However, this year’s season of religious observation is not without risk. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Muslims around the world have no choice but to quickly adapt to a new reality under quarantine. Regular trips to the local mosque for daily prayers, as well as large community gatherings to break the fast, are now widely deemed inadvisable, per WHO guidance.
To learn more about this season of uncertain adaptation, Premise surveyed contributors in 31 countries with substantial Muslim communities across the Middle East, North Africa, Asia and Europe. Premise contributors provided insight into how their community’s sentiments and behaviors are changing with regard to observing Ramadan during the pandemic.
Contributors not only reported on changes within their community’s lifestyle; they also documented through photo observations how their community has—or has not—adapted to the pandemic.
As of May 5, roughly 63% of contributors who identified as Muslim reported they planned to observe the holiday, with nearly 80% of those stating that they anticipated COVID-19 would affect their celebration plans. More notably, 50% of contributors also mentioned they would cancel trips to their local mosques for prayer.
Of the 63% of Contributors who indicated plans to observe Ramadan, nearly 70% have reported that they also still intend to fast. After fasting, the second most popular response to how Contributors plan to celebrate Ramadan was plain and simple: staying home. The next most frequently reported response, at 38%, was spending time with family. Additionally, about 10% of Contributors indicated plans to participate in virtual prayer and recitation.
It is equally important to note that not all communities celebrating Ramadan this year have been able to adapt to COVID-19 prevention guidance. In Yemen, 43% of Contributors report that they have yet to take any precautions for Ramadan regarding the pandemic. Furthermore, 70% of Contributors in Yemen reported local mosques as still open, and 34% still intend to attend their local mosque for prayers.
In early March, Premise launched a month-long global survey on the initial impact of the pandemic. When asked what effect COVID-19 had on their willingness to be in public places, roughly 21% of contributors in Yemen reported that COVID had no effect on their willingness to be in public places.
Mali, Tanzania and Afghanistan also reported a similar percentage—between 16 and 21%—of Contributors still intending to attend prayers at their local mosque.
This largely falls in line with the results collected from a global social distancing survey, ran from March 12 – 30, 2020. When asked how familiar they were with the concept of social distancing, 15% of Afghan Contributors, 18% of Malian Contributors, and 13% of Tanzanian Contributors reported being ‘not at all familiar.’
While globally 36% of Contributors report their local mosques as still open, 67% of Contributors said they still intend to participate in community events with their family.
Our results surfaced Contributors reporting shortages of traditionally popular foods during Ramadan, such as dates, fruits and other nuts. Previous Premise data highlighted that shortages like these have become common since the initial outbreak of COVID-19, with the uncertainty around social distancing and closure of non-essential businesses causing sharp influxes in panicked and inflated demand, compounded by supply chain interruptions.
What is abundantly clear throughout these observations is that the Muslim community has not lost hope, as evidenced through the countless submissions highlighting the undeniable unifying power of food and family. Premise contributors across the globe have demonstrated their adaptability in continuing to observe centuries-old rituals and traditions on the face of the COVID pandemic.
Food continues to be a core component to understanding culture, allowing Premise a unique glimpse at how Contributors break fast for Ramadan. A hearty suhoor is important to ensure longevity until it is time for the communal Iftar. Photos from around the world highlighted traditional foods to include dates, lentils, soup and chicken, though different regions also presented their own dishes, such as Tunisia’s shorab frik soup and a dessert from the Philippines called kutsinta, both pictured below.
Be it Passover, Easter or Ramadan, as this year’s holy days continue to undergo vast changes due to COVID-19 the sanctity and celebration of all holidays and cultures demonstrate that their common roots, in both food and family, continue to thrive.
You can learn more about how Premise is working to understand how COVID-19 is impacting people’s behaviors and lifestyles around the world at www.premise.com/COVID-19.