Saddening but true, it is the second Ramadan during the Covid-19 pandemic
In the last one year of the pandemic and limitations in movements, the Bangladesh government has encountered economic losses and is preparing to confront more economic crises.
Industries such as RMGs; banking sectors; education industries; food and security; and niche businesses – every sector is facing liquidity pressure. As much as the employers are struggling running their businesses, the most affected groups are the middle and lower-income working populations.
While most of them feared for their health during this pandemic and while dealing with the demise of family members, their struggles multiplied with the sudden redundancies.
Leaving them with no jobs, these people had a challenging Ramadan last year.
Saddening but true, it is the second Ramadan during the Covid-19 pandemic, meaning the Muslim community is celebrating the month of Ramadan amid the strict restrictions imposed by the government.
During Ramadan, people tend to be more charitable, but due to social distancing, not only are the destitute not able to approach in close proximity to ask for charity but also overall household incomes have reduced.
This led to the middle-income families storing more food than giving to the needy due to the uncertainty of the near future economy.
The second lockdown was declared by the Government of Bangladesh following the massive surge in Covid-19, resulting in approximately 100 per day in the recent weeks.
The country has faced 9,661 deaths and 96,898 active cases with more than 5,000 new cases within the last seven days.
Over 81,000 people received their second dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.
Turning to a ghost town, the streets of Dhaka were mostly filled with check posts. Similar to 2020, restaurants, stores, street shops, ‘tong’ and shopping malls have closed down creating heavy losses in business especially during the Ramadan this year.
For the past five years families and friends created a trend of having iftar and sehri in restaurants.
This trend proved to be extremely profitable which is now at halt, including all kinds of public transport services, domestic and international flights remaining suspended till April 21.
The government has declared to support the lower-income group with food and monetary backing but sufferings of the lower income group along with the concept of Ithaar, which means ‘selflessness and altruism’ during the month of Ramadan still remains in question.
Two of the ways of Ithaar are Zakat and Fitrana. Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a religious duty of alms given to the marginalized and the destitute. Fitrana is a charitable donation of food that must be given to the poor before the prayer of Eid-Ul-Fitr.
Discouraging gatherings, limiting the number of people during Tarawih and impeding physical interactions among community members have also created a hindrance in Zakat and Fitrana distribution to those who are marginalized and in dire need of support.
In the month of Ramadan, altruism is highly encouraged because it teaches us to give precedence to others.
But the lockdown has posed limitations in offering precedence towards the marginalized and the poverty stricken.
While there are newly formed organizations that are collecting Zakat to distribute among the marginalized, it is not widely known and most of the people are having trust issues.
Ramadan is a month of altruism and precedence. Despite the fact that we stay home and ensure the safety of others and ourselves, the charitable offerings to the destitute society goes missing.
While we are performing our moral obligation towards the vulnerable, the lower-income groups are also suffering the most without their day-to-day income and are unable to receive the Zakat and Fitrana that they are worthy of.
This leaves them with nothing but the emotions behind fasting for the whole day, for the sake of Allah, and being unsure and enigmatic how to break the fast is irrepressible and depressing.
There are several reports confirming that lower-income groups are spending their days without food, pushing them further into poverty.
The shock of Covid-19 crises is leading towards the devastation of the socioeconomic disruptions of lives and livelihoods.
Therefore, in this albatross of keeping everyone safe and offering to help through monetary support and providing food, Ramadan is a month where Muslims could preach the practice of social welfare by giving their Zakat and Fitrana while strictly maintaining the Covid-19 precautions and fight against the pandemic to the best of their abilities.
The sudden lockdown for the second time, especially in the month of Ramadan created a hindrance for the destitute.
While their daily wages are at halt; receiving the Zakat and Fitrana from the citizens during the lockdown is nothing affirmative.
Despite understanding the urgency of the lockdown, the destitute need to make a choice between earning their daily wage to feeding their family or staying home in fear of Covid-19. To them, the lockdown itself is a barrier to their income and pushes them more to fight against hunger, health issues and poverty, at the same time.
The second wave of the pandemic in Bangladesh created an unfathomable and perennial tension between staying safe or working to feed their family members – bona fide.
The author is a lecturer and program coordinator, School of General Education, Brac University.