(Editor’s note: This essay is part of Bethesda Beat’s Coronavirus Chronicles personal essay series. Visit the submission page to learn more.)
For many American Muslims, Ramadan in the time of coronavirus is uniquely isolating.
There’s no midnight dining at IHOP to prepare for a day of fasting; no breaking the fast with friends or family outside your household; no praying at the mosque each night; and no hitting the shopping mall to buy clothes for Eid, the holiday that celebrates Ramadan’s end.
As a Muslim in America, I’ve almost always fasted alone.
My parents and brothers are scattered around the country and the world. My husband is Presbyterian. I’ve never had a mosque I felt comfortable going to.
When my children were very young, I stopped observing Ramadan altogether. Fasting was too hard and solitary.
Last year, I wanted to try again. I fasted all month and let my kids try fasting on the weekend. My son, then 11, made it to lunchtime. My daughter, then 7, made it to sunset.
This year, we’re home for Ramadan and my daughter asked to fast with me. Now that she is 8 years old, I’m comfortable letting her fast even on school days. I’m with her, and I can make sure she’s not getting too fatigued.
Each night, we plan what we’ll eat for our predawn meal. One day, it was cinnamon toast with Nutella, turkey sausage, milk and fruit.
I wake my daughter up around 4 a.m. We eat quietly and chat a little.
“It’s really dark,” she said the first morning.
During the day, I tell her to distract herself when her tummy rumbles. On days when she gets too hungry, I tell her to break her fast early with milk and dates.
She’s proud of herself for fasting with me.
We’re socially distancing, but we have each other. That’s something to be grateful for this Ramadan.
Eman Quotah is a communications professional and novelist who lives in Rockville. Her first novel, “Bride of the Sea,” will be published by Tin House Books in 2021.
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