From the 23rd of April till the 24th of May this year, International muslim students celebrated the end of Ramadan in solitude during the COVID-19 pandemic. Some who were not able to travel back to be with their families opt to celebrate via video conference to send their love to relatives and friends.
This includes muslim international students in Australia who experienced Ramadan away from home.
Adi Ashraf, a Malaysian student who came to Melbourne in 2016, said that the holy month is meant to gain discipline and to test control and do good deeds.
“We have to fast for thirty days…you can’t eat or drink and you pray” Adi spoke.
“It’s not like meditation, it’s more like trying to control your lust, anger, temptation.” He added.
The Architecture graduate said that fasting time differs from place to place.
For those in Melbourne, the first fasting time started around 5.27 a.m. and ended at 5.41 p.m. and changed slightly every day based on the sun’s movement.
Ramadan away from home
Aulia Qisthi, who just arrived in Australia from Indonesia last October experienced her first Ramadan without her family.
When typically meals and prayers are done together, here she had to learn how to be independent.
“[In Indonesia] we usually eat together while talking and my parents already prepared the food. But here you have to make your own food earlier.” Qisthi said.
“It also goes when you wake up in the morning. My parents helped me wake up and already have food on the table [before starting the fast].” She laughed.
Aside from the time zone, Adi Ashraf also missed the festivity of Ramadan in Malaysia
“Back home we have this Bazaar Ramadan, it’s like a food street where people have traditional food before they break fast…but then again here we have associations that deliver food, but it’s not the same feeling.” he said.
Ramadan during COVID-19
The current pandemic has given challenges to the muslim community over the past few months.
The place of worship has been closed around Australia since the end of March, following the nation’s motion into lockdown.
They also had to celebrate Eid al-Fitr, which was the Breaking of the Fast festival, in solitude.
“On the day we usually eat breakfast, prepare and wear white then go to the mosque with the family to hear the sermon, and go to silaturahmi afterwards. But this time thankfully I joined the muslim indonesian community in Melbourne and would hear the sermon using Zoom”. Aulia elaborated.
Though she celebrated by herself at home, she still prepared and dressed appropriately for the occasion, and didn’t forget to call her parents.
Like Aulia, to muslims all over the world adapt into using video calls to keep the Eid spirit alive.
Though for Ashraf, celebrating Eid this year is quieter than he usually would.
“Usually during mubarak day most of my mom’s family would come over to our place to celebrate the first day of Mubarak. In the mornings I would hear children’s noise running around and I would know it’s hari raya or Mubarak.” he remembered
He opted to call a couple of his friends over instead, adhering to the isolation rules up to five people indoors.
“I’ll invite a few of my closest friends to my place to cook them traditional Malay food.” he said.
Qisthi said that doing Ramadan in COVID-19 has made her belief stronger.
“I understand my religion a little bit more, because I’m always by myself, no one supervises me, it helped me grow as a muslim as well. I also question why I fast, I become more curious and understand the purpose of why I do it.”
She was grateful for her friends that support each other.
“You know after you fast, you get so hungry so you eat a lot of things and we become full and lazy. If we sleep we can sometimes forget to sholat [pray]. My friends kept me motivated and pushed me to keep going” She giggled.
Happy Eid to muslim international students! How was your experience with fasting this year?