File photo: Muslim worshippers pray around the Kaaba in the Grand Mosque complex, Islam's holiest shrine, in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on November 1, 2020, as authorities expand the year-round Umrah pilgrimage to accommodate more worshippers while relaxing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic curbs Photograph:( AFP )
The last two pillars face an immense challenge in the current times. Both will be taking place once again during a pandemic
Islam is based on five key practices known as pillars. The first is the profession of faith called Shahada. The second pillar is prayer five times a day while facing Mecca. The third pillar is a charity helping those in need. The fourth pillar is Ramzan fasting from dawn to dusk and the fifth and final pillar is the pilgrimage to Mecca, the holiest site in Islam.
The last two pillars face an immense challenge in the current times. Both will be taking place once again during a pandemic.
For a community of 1.8 billion people, there are bound to be concerns.
Is intermittent fasting safe during a pandemic?
In the month of Ramzan, Muslims who've crossed puberty abstain from food and water from sunrise to sunset. The purpose is physical and spiritual purification.
In its Ramzan 2021 advisory, the WHO says there is no evidence to suggest that fasting can increase the risk of infection. Those suffering from the persistence of symptoms after recovery can also fast. They've been advised to break it in case of aggravated symptoms.
Does taking a vaccine while fasting invalidates your fast?
The answer depends on who you ask or follow. Some hardline clerics are strictly opposed to vaccination during fasting. But a majority say it is permissible. From Saudi Arabia's highest cleric to the top religious leader in Lebanon and top Islamic bodies in Indonesia, they have all said that getting a jab is completely okay. They say, since the vaccine is injected and not consumed. It does not constitute breaking the fast.
As for the Hajj, Saudi Arabia has made vaccination a must for the pilgrimage which begins in July. You'll be allowed to enter Mecca if you have received two doses of the vaccine.
A single dose at least 14 days before the pilgrimage or if one has recovered from the virus.
The doubts have been cleared, the rules have been put in place to ensure they work. The trick is to follow one of the most important lessons of Ramzan : patience and persistence.