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Learning Experiences From Ramadan under Lockdown

Thinking Outside the Box

This Ramadan is exceptionally different from any Ramadan that we have ever experienced. We’re celebrating this Ramadan while going through a very difficult, tough time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Masjids, schools, many businesses, parks, etc., are closed. People—with the exception of essential and frontline workers—are staying home to fight the spread of the fatal Coronavirus.

We are missing many Ramadan activities such as community iftars, Taraweeh behind our local imams, and i`tikaf in the mosque.

However, we have unprecedented learning experiences from this exceptional Ramadan; “thinking outside the box” is one of the most important lessons that we should reflect and carry on after Ramadan.

Manifestations of thinking outside the box this Ramadan

Below are a few examples of the manifestations of “thinking outside the box” in this exceptional Ramadan:

Reviving the spirit of ijtihad (scholarly personal reasoning)

Imams have faced unprecedented, novel questions that require new ijtihad to guide and provide workable solutions to our communities—based on profound understating of our faith and the higher objectives of Islamic law.

Questions such as following the local imams in Taraweeh through the internet and doing i`tikaf at home are just a few examples of the novel questions that imams have encountered while thinking outside the box to give responses to their communities.

Gates of ijtihad are proved to remain wide open—and never closed—to provide real answers to such novel questions. Many Imams have done their part, proved to be up to the challenges, and helped their communities maintain the spirit of Ramadan in these exceptional conditions.

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Virtual masjids & community activities

Many mosques have resorted to virtual activities and iftars to keep their communities spiritually connected while observing social distancing. These solutions, founded on “thinking outside the box” mechanism, have provided our communities with alternatives to activities that are not feasible this Ramadan due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Families’ Activities

This Ramadan, Muslim families have faced huge challenges to maintain Ramadan spirit and connect their Kids to the masjid and the community.  However, many families have succeeded in providing a Ramadan environment at home. Some have enrolled their kids in virtual Ramadan halaqa and online activities at the masjid. These programs—based on “thinking outside the box” creative ideas—help families keep the Ramadan spirit at home.

In fact, the “thinking outside the box” mechanism focuses on the goals and objectives and not on the changeable means and tools. We should never restrict ourselves to limited cultural or traditional means at the expense of the goals. We have to be creative, innovative, and think outside the box to achieve our noble goals while considering our context and available means.   

To conclude, we should carry on the learning experiences, including thinking outside the box, that we have learned in this exceptional Ramadan. We should adopt them as creative, innovative ways of thinking and lifestyles. 

Imams should always provide new ijtihad—based on the Qur’an, the Sunnah, the higher objectives of Islamic law—to provide our communities with answers to novel cases while considering both the texts and context. Communities, mosques, and families should be innovative and creative to embrace the young Muslim generations and raise them as proud Muslims. 

About Dr. Wael Shehab
Dr. Wael Shehab has a PhD in Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University. He is currently the Imam of the Downtown Toronto Masjid in Canada.