Ramadan in Lockdown Captured in a Museum

By Lianne Kolirin

Ramadan in lockdown was a challenging experience for Muslims worldwide. Now a leading British museum has launched a project to reflect the experiences of this unusual time in London.

Social distancing coupled with the closure of mosques meant communities were unable to celebrate Ramadan, which ran from April 23 to May 23, in their usual fashion.

The Museum of London was keen to capture this unique experience to ensure future generations will be able to learn about and understand this extraordinary period as part of its ongoing Collecting Covid project. It aims to reflect the voices and experiences of a broad range of Londoners, from those on the frontline to the vulnerable shielding at home.

While the collection is ongoing with objects and experiences still being collected, it already features an audio recording of the public calls for prayers at the Musallaa an-Noor mosque in Hackney. Researchers have also documented the experiences of young Muslims in west London and have been working with seven groups of families or households from various London boroughs.

Aisling Serrant, community engagement manager at the Museum of London Docklands, explained that the collection includes photographs, film, audio recordings and even personal objects.

She said: “Some of the key parts of Ramadan, such as spending time with family and friends and visiting the mosque, have not been able to take place this year or had to be adapted to virtual or socially distant means. It was important to capture the experiences of families at this time as it was an unprecedented experience for the many Muslims living in London.”

The collection so far features some of the reflections below:

Iffath from Croydon:
“I am an Anaesthetic Nurse and wanted to take part in the Museum of London’s collecting project in order to represent the frontline NHS staff who embraced this challenging Ramadan and allow future generations to learn that fasting in PPE was challenging physically, however, mentally it strengthens your mind and helps you grow as a person.  My main reflections of celebrating Ramadan in lockdown were how important it is to slow down in life, absorb the beauty around us, and finally, that there is always so much more we can do for our community.”

Shazia from Redbridge

“Given that our Ramadan experience is always characterised by such collectiveness, Ramadan during ‘lockdown’ was at first met with some nervousness! As the days and weeks passed, there were many wonderful ways and means available for us to reap the rewards of Ramadan. Prayers at the mosque were replaced with congregational prayers at home, attending the mosque to hear valuable reminders about life were replaced with online sermons delivered by the Imam, Islamic study gatherings at the mosque were replaced by family discussions and presentations by the children in our living room, volunteering to feed the homeless was replaced by donating to the local foodbank. We still shared Iftar meals with our family and friends by sending (and receiving!) lovingly prepared food.”

Nafisa from Waltham Forest:

“I hope future generations looking at our experience will ponder and reflect on their own lives, their own relationships and be grateful for the little things and find value in non-material things. That they will see that whatever life throws at them, it is important to find the silver lining. To have hope in the darkest of times and to take resilience, strength and comfort from our stories.”