Ramadan is a sacred month for the Muslim community. It is a time for prayer, fasting and reflection, as well as time for gathering after each sunset prayer to break the fast (Ifatar) with family and friends. While the pandemic has altered how people observe Ramadan, it can’t take away the significance of this holy month.
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“Ramadan is a month for inner reflection, connection with God, and charitable acts,” says Nazleen Bharmal, MD, PhD, Associate Chief of Community Health & Partnerships for Cleveland Clinic Community Care and Population Health. “Even though we’re still in a pandemic, we can still practice many Ramadan traditions in a safe manner for the overall health of the community.”
To keep members of the community safe, Muslim healthcare providers are working together with religious leaders to help clear up misinformation about COVID-19 and the vaccines. They’re also offering guidance for how to handle vaccination and social distancing guidelines during Ramadan.
On April 6, 2021, the National Muslim Task Force on COVID-19 (NMTF) and the National Black Muslim COVID Coalition (NBMCC) released a statement about safe Ramadan practices and COVID-19 vaccinations. Here is their updated guidance.
Guidance for safer Ramadan gatherings
NMTF and NBMCC suggest that households and community organizations continue to follow public health and government guidance for social distancing, wearing masks in public spaces and limiting mass public gatherings.
Mosque safety guidelines
The group recognizes that mosques (including Islamic centers, schools, etc.) play an important role in religious and communal life. They also understand that mosques will have different plans based on resources and local or state guidelines. Since mosque leadership bears an important moral responsibility to ensure the safety of their congregants, the Task Force stresses the importance of complying with local guidance and implementing safety protocols to protect community members, especially during Taraweeh and Jumu’ah prayers.
The Task Force also urges mosque leadership to:
- Create signs and notices to remind people of safety guidelines/restrictions near entrances and exits.
- Screen employees and volunteers for any cold-like symptoms before coming into the mosque.
- Monitor the number of people entering the mosque, check temperatures and implement screening protocols at the entrances.
- Ensure social distancing guidelines are observed inside the building.
- Ask congregants to wear face masks during the entirety of the prayer services.
- Provide hand sanitizing stations (with alcohol-based hand sanitizers with greater than 60% alcohol content) throughout the mosque.
- Have everyone bring their own prayer rug or provide sheets of paper to accommodate those who don’t bring their own rug.
- Clean and disinfect the mosque with EPA-approved disinfectants regularly.
- Allow fresh air/ventilation into the mosque. Air purifiers or HEPA filters can also be used.
- When practical and possible, hold Friday prayers outside on the grounds of the mosque or parking lot spaces, with six feet of separation, to lower transmission risks.
As a reminder, the Task Force says the latest CDC guidance about people being in the same room without masks only applies to people who are fully vaccinated. This means people who are more than two weeks out from the last dose of a COVID-19 vaccine (either the second shot for Pfizer/Moderna or after a single shot of Johnson & Johnson). This guidance does not apply to those who are not fully vaccinated yet and should not be used as a reason to open up mosques.
The Task Force recommends that Wudu be performed at home. Public Wudu areas should be kept closed due to the high risk of respiratory droplets.
When to stay home
If you’re not quite sure if you should pray at home or at the mosque during Ramadan, here are a few reasons to stay home:
- If you’re high-risk: 65 and older, have high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease, cancer or are obese or in an immunocompromised state.
- If you are sick (have fever, cough, runny nose, diarrhea, etc.), the Friday prayer obligation should be lifted to prevent the spread of illness.
Can you get vaccinated during Ramadan?
There have been questions about COVID-19 vaccine ingredients and if getting vaccinated during Ramadan will break a fast. Here is the Task Force’s positions on both of these topics. Should you still have questions, they recommend consulting with local Islamic scholars and healthcare professionals.
The Task Force says the COVID-19 vaccines approved in the U.S. have been deemed permissible to use, or halal. Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines do not contain pork products or alcohol and were made using novel mRNA technology. They also will not change your DNA.
Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine works similarly to older vaccines. They do not have pork products but have been manufactured using fetal cell lines. However, many juridical authorities have considered this vaccine as halal based on the need to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus if other alternatives (mRNA vaccines) aren’t available.
As for vaccination breaking a fast, based on the opinion of the majority of Islamic scholars (e.g., the Fiqh Council of North America and the Assembly of Muslim Jurists of America), getting vaccinated does not invalidate fasting during Ramadan.
Wishes for a safe Ramadan
Dr. Bharmal is optimistic and encourages the Muslim community to protect themselves and those they love during this sacred time to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“We wish all our Muslim colleagues and community members a fruitful, safe and healthy Ramadan.”