Muslims around Malaysia and around the world are preparing to face Ramadan like no other. With the lock-downs in place, and not really knowing when they would end, Muslim families around the country await for a fasting month that they will spend at home.
The many exciting events that Ramadan in Malaysia brings, like the food bazaars, will not go ahead this year due to the social distancing rules in place. The nightly Tarawih prayers which many Muslims go to after breaking their fast might also not take place, when last year the mosques were full during the holy month, this year, it may seem that the only people going to the mosques will be the Imams, who will start the call to prayer to indicate it’s time.
Perhaps it might not be all bleak for Muslims, mosques may eventually open but with social distancing rules. But one thing’s for sure, the Ramadan Bazaars, that many Malaysians love going to to get their delicious meal to break their fast, will most likely be put aside for this year. Needless to say, this Ramadan may be the most unusual for Muslims.
So, how are Muslims preparing Ramadan in Malaysia?
Malaysia has taken to the digital world to help with these issues, for instance, vendors from the bazaars are employing the use of online shopping, which has become such a huge thing in the country. So fortunately, Malaysians who are fasting can still get the goodies and treats they had in Ramadan last year.
SubangBazaar2U is one such example of bazaar vendors taking their business online. They offer various foods and dishes like Mutton Biryani, Baked Carbonara, Murtabak, Roti Jala and many more. You can visit their Instagram here to check out what more they have to offer during this fasting month!
There are also many more vendors and sellers you can find on online shopping platforms like Shopee and Lazada, which are also having Ramadan sales l. Not to mention that we still have GrabFood and FoodPanda available as well.
So although we may be stuck in our homes, Malaysians who are fasting could still find delicious food to munch when it comes breaking fast.
But Ramadan is not all about fasting and delicious food to break fast with. It is a Holy month for those who are practicing Muslims, a time where they are close to God, a time for forgiveness to one another and a time for Charity. In Ramadan, Muslims reflect upon themselves, and how they can better themselves as people, they remember how things can always get worse and that whatever hardship they may fall upon, someone, somewhere in the world has it way worse and that they must be grateful.
“Although it may be difficult, Malaysians must maintain physical distancing. We may not have Ramadan bazaars or Tarawih prayers at the mosque, but alternative arrangements at home will remain meaningful. We can protect our family and community, especially the elderly, by reducing our physical contact with them. This is an act of love and sacrifice,” the Malaysian Health Coalition said in a statement, acknowledging that the Ramadan celebration could not be celebrated like last year.
Moving To Digital
The Malaysian Health Coalition urged community leaders and Imams to start using more digital alternatives to reach out to their communities in these times. Many people may feel emotionally saddened by the situation at hand, and the MHC suggests that using digital platforms can help.
Ever since the start of the Restrictive Movement Order, online platforms have been at full use providing various services like entertainment, shopping and food delivery. Social media has been used to bring updates to the public on the ongoing situation, as well as online news outlets. MalaysiaKini has a Covid-19 tracker on their site for people to use and be updated on.
Keeping Their Spirits Up
Muslim based businesses can still thrive online, providing their products to Muslims and non-Muslims alike. Just the other day, my family ordered some Nasi Minyak and Nasi Dagang from a local eatery, and we did it though WhatsApp. The payment was done via online banking, through Maybank2U. As I enjoyed my delicious Nasi Minyak, I thought about how amazing it was that we can still get the food we love even without going out and how easy it was.
Many vendors and businesses know that food is an important aspect of Ramadan in Malaysia, and even our entire culture, so by making these dishes and delivering them to Malaysians all around the country, it may somewhat bring some of us closer together.
While some Muslims may be deeply saddened during Ramadan in Malaysia as they cannot go out to the Mosques or go out to break their fast with friends, many Muslims know that it is their intentions that matter in the end and that by staying home and preventing the pandemic to spread even further, they are helping themselves, their families and their communities.
Usually Ramadan Bazaars, which are basically food stalls set up in an area, are part of the Ramadan festivities here in Malaysia. Muslims and Non-Muslims alike can come and buy all sorts of foods in these bazaars. From old-school Malaysian food like Ayam Percik or Roti Jon to modern western food like Hamburgers, there surely will be something that can be found in these markets that appeal to different people.
But with the social distancing measures in place, none of that will be available on this year’s Ramadan. Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had announced that all forms of Bazaars including e-Bazaars are not permitted. But states like Selangor have found alternatives to this.
Selangor has decided to proceed with the e-bazaar concept that will be run through two e-commerce platforms, which are Grab and their own Selangor Platform, called PLATS. This was different from the previous plan of using central kitchens where traders and vendors cook in one place, and that was obviously a bad idea with the factors at hand…
The Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari, stated that Selangor has appointed 10 local authority halls and 67 restaurants to provide food during Ramadan. The food will be delivered to customers in Selangor through delivery services such as Grab, Bungkusit, Mr Speedy, Zepto Express and MatDespatch, who are all partnered with the initiative. Staff of these appointed centres will of course comply with social distancing rules and adhere to strict cleanliness policies. They will also be given Typhoid injections as requested by the Ministry of Health. The allocated food centres will only be used for food collection only, so no cooking and walk-in orders are allowed. The Selangor state allocated RM600,000 for this initiative that can bring in digitalisation incentives and encourage small-time vendors to part take in the Selangor Ramadan e-Bazaar.
In Penang, they have something similar on their Jom Beli platform, where Ramadan vendors can cook from home and a delivery service can deliver those foods to customers.
For the rest of Malaysia, Ramadan bazaars both physical and digital are banned as the government seeks to control the spread of the virus. These include bazaars offering drive-through and pick-up orders as there were fears of congestion due to people heading out and getting their orders. However, the Senior Minister reassured that current delivery services like Grab Food and FoodPanda are still allowed to operate as usual.
Some Businesses Will Still Suffer
Even though Selangor and Penang offer digital alternatives, many other food vendors and businesses during Ramadan will have a drop in sales if the lock-down continues to be in place, as not every business is found on online platforms like Grab and FoodPanda. The Government has offered stimulus packages to help ease the difficulty, but the loss is still there. There is no way of confirming what may happen once this pandemic goes away, but one thing is for certain, the world will feel a tad different.
Ramadan in Malaysia before usually involved Malaysians having gathering at their homes where the invite family and friends, Muslim and Non-Muslim alike, after all, nothing is better at bringing people closer than good food.
But this year, most homes will be quiet as no one is allowed to have gatherings while the lock-down is in place. For some people, they might be spending Ramadan with their immediate family members only, but for others who live by themselves, they will be breaking their fast with no one around them.
It is best that during these trying times we should try to still contact one another, be it through a simple phone-call, a text or through voice-chatting online. Although people may be far apart physically, the internet and telecommunications can still bring them together.
So if you are worried or sorry for anyone you know that is spending Ramadan alone, why not say hello and check up on them?
Some May See It As A Good Thing
While most may feel somewhat saddened by the circumstances at hand, some Muslims may see this lock-down as an opportunity to be more pious during the holy month. As you know, during Ramadan, it is not only eating during the day that Muslims abstain from. Muslims also avoid smoking and sexual activities as well, so being alone might be good for some of them to avoid that. They may see it as an opportunity to become closer to God.
Although they may have lost the physical connections, the spiritual connections of charity, peace, care and love for one another will still be there, and they would push on through even though it will be more difficult in some ways this year.
How Is Ramadan Affected For Muslims Around The World?
Many Muslim countries are having a harder time with the Covid-19 situation in Malaysia, but all around, they still face the same difficulties as we do as mosque closures and lock-downs keep individuals in communities separated from one another. From the Middle-East to South-Asia, Muslims around the world are embracing for a Ramadan like no other. Even the holiest Mosque in all the Muslim world, the Masjid Al-Haraam, is nearly empty when it was once full during the holy month.
Bustling cities like Cairo and Istanbul, cities that usually never sleep, are now quiet as the souks shut as per preventative measures placed by their own respective governments, and this of course will create some difficulty to the many traders whose livelihood depends on their shops and cafes.
In the UAE, foreign labour workers are also without work, and while last year mosques in the Middle-Eastern nation offered free food at the mosques for the workers to break their fast, this year, that won’t be the case.
It is safe to say, that the pandemic has indeed caused some amount of anxiety for practicing Muslims around the world during this Ramadan.
A Little Personal Note…
OK, time to level with you fellow Muslim readers out there. I, a practicing Muslim myself, am indeed saddened like many of you due to the situation the world is facing. One of my favourite parts of spending Ramadan in Malaysia was going to gatherings of friends and relatives, heading out just before it is time to break fast, and catching up with friends before the call to prayer is heard and we chow down on some delicious dishes, homemade and from street vendors. I will surely miss going to the Tarawih prayers with my friends and family and hanging out at a mamak after we are done praying.
But we must remember that Ramadan is a time where you must look upon yourself and acknowledge past mistakes, a time where you should bring yourself closer to God and bring yourself to becoming a better person, for yourself and for others.
While we may be saddened from the lack of togetherness in this year’s Ramadan, we must remember that these rules are in place for our safety and the safety of others, the safety of those we love. So although we won’t be able to go pray at the mosques for a while, we must remember that it is our intentions that count the most.
We here at The Cool Bears hope that everyone stays safe while the pandemic is amok, and we encourage that you follow the social distancing rules set in place. So remember, wash your hands and #StayAtHome. And we wish our Muslims readers a blessed Ramadan!