Filipino Documentary Photographer

Ramadhan Under the Coronavirus Pandemic

Project funded by the National Geographic Society through its COVID-19 Emergency Fund for Journalists.

Will enforced isolation be the way closer to God, or will it only lead to anxiety and loneliness? Millions of Muslims around the world entered Islam’s holiest month in a paradox.

Muslims around the world and in the Philippines faced Ramadhan confined to where they were when lockdowns hit. Social interaction had been greatly limited at a month when every Muslim is expected to be out and about engaging in charitable deeds and congregating in Mosques every night — a month when togetherness is the norm.

How will Ramadan look like when almost everything it stands for suddenly cannot be? This project aims to explore how physically expressed practices adapt and transcend its definitions.

A frontliner’s Eid’l Fitr away from home — and her 1-year old son
CNN Philippines
Socially-distanced Ramadan; Eid’l Fitr under quarantine

Tajannah Basman doubted if she would survive to see the month of Ramadan. On March, she was diagnosed positive for the coronavirus. She was PH 484. For her, just making it to the holy month would be a miracle and gift in itself. ⁣

Tajannah had to isolate herself at home. This meant long days of dealing with psychological stress alone, and that family can’t visit to comfort her.⁣

Two weeks before Ramadan, Tajannah tested negative.⁣

The 27 year-old says pandemic changed her for the better. Tajannah relates her experience most intently on that of Mariam from the Quran. “It was during the time when Mariam was secluded that her faith grew stronger,” she said. “That is how I felt, too.”⁣

With her second lease of life, Tajannah seized the opportunity to serve as a bridge in providing aid to Muslim communities across the country.⁣

“This is another chance given to you, better maximize it. Make the most out of it.”⁣

In between prayers, Precious Imam quietly sobs alone in her flat in Manila.

Had the coronavirus pandemic not forced lockdows around the country, Imam would be celebrating Eid’l Fitr in her hometown in Iligan City, Mindanao, with her family, and with her one-year old son. But the archipelagic nation has yet to flatten the curve, and as a doctor, Imam still needs to fulfill her duty as a frontline health worker.

“This will be my first celebrating Eid’l Fitr away from home, and as a parent,” Imam says.

As soon as she finished the Salat al-Eid, a prayer commemorating the end of Ramadan, Imam headed back to the kitchen. She had to cook food that she will share with Arielle Dado, a Christian friend and a fellow health worker.

“I actually have a family here,” Imam says. “Meron akong kapatid na nasa Manila. But I can’t go there. He also has children. Police, frontliner din. And recently na-diagnose siya with COVID. He’s still recovering. Kaka-diagnose lang niya last week. Kaya mas lalong hindi kami magkikita sa Eid. Ang sad ‘no?”

The end of Ramadan is as celebrated for Muslims as Christmas is to Christians. Feasts are served, families gather, gifts given.

But this year’s holy month is different almost in every way. For Imam, Dado fasting with her is just a small act, yet a much appreciated semblance of Ramadan she has had this time. “It fills that tiny hole in my heart,” Imam says.

“I felt the heaviness in my heart when Eid morning came, and it sank into me that I will spend it alone for the very first time,” Imam says.

“But I know Allah has better plans.”

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