By Precious John(Correspondent, Lagos)
On 23rd April, the holy month of Ramadan began, with Muslims around the world practicing under unique circumstances and adapting to the changes caused by COVID-19. From live-streamed sermons to video calling loved ones for virtual Iftars, this year’s Ramadan is seeing Muslims worldwide forging new ways to connect with family and friends and enjoy the collective tradition that Ramadan provides.
To capture this religious practice taking place under lockdown, Canon has partnered with Jordanian Canon Ambassador and two time Pulitzer prize winner, Muhammed Muheisen and Dubai-based photographer Reem Falaknaz – who took part to the Arab Documentary Photography Programme – to document their personal experiences of practicing Ramadan during this unprecedented time through the powerful medium of photography.
Commenting on these intimate and powerful moments, Corporate Communications and Marketing Services Director at Canon Africa and the Middle East Mai Youssef said: “The intimate photos taken by these esteemed photographers offer a unique view of how restrictions implemented across the globe have changed Ramadan celebrations and afforded people time for stillness and reflection. From reconnecting with the beauty of their surroundings to showing how friends and families are coming together in prayer over social media channels, Muhammed and Reem document the simple pleasures they have experienced during this period of quiet reflection.”
Muhammed Muheisen says, “The month of Ramadan is all about the total devotion to God, empathising with the poor and the less fortunate, kindness and getting rid of bad habits and also, it is a month of family gatherings, sharing with the community. However, due to the spread of coronavirus and the lockdown among nations, many are experiencing it privately at home.”
“Since the lockdown began in Greece, I have been walking around my neighbourhood, discovering the beauty surrounding me. It’s the thing that keeps me positive, and it’s something I didn’t have the chance to do before, as I am always on the go with my camera.
During this Ramadan, I am taking a deeper look at my immediate surroundings, where everything is quiet and things are moving slowly. This hill just behind my home in the suburbs of Athens has become a regular destination on my neighbourhood walks.”
At home with her mum and housekeeper, Reem Falaknaz talks about the differences of practicing Ramadan this year, “In my family, we usually gather at the matriarchal house, my grandma’s, for iftar every day. My uncles, aunts, their wives and husbands, their children, and their housekeepers break the fast under one roof. On a full attendance day, we are almost 30 members. With COVID-19, this is the first Ramadan my mom and I will spend in our home, away from the family.”
“My second nephew, Omar, was born in February. Mama and I haven’t been in the same room with him for almost three months now. He was born with a heart defect, so we maintain our distance to keep him safe. I’ve set daily rendezvous for us from this window.
Mama is a hafiza (preserver) who has memorized the Quran. She’ll spend most of her day revising the words and their meaning with her friends via WhatsApp (she usually has a weekly class in a centre, but with COVID, that’s been shut down for now)” continues Reem.
In response to these photos, social commentator and journalist Sumaya El-Zaher talks about the importance of strength and positivity amongst the Muslim community practicing during this time, saying “This year’s Ramadan certainly looks and feels different from the past ones. It is a Ramadan in lockdown, a Ramadan spent without late-night family gatherings, friends visiting and communal prayers. But it is for sure not any less special. This holy month is full of blessings, forgiveness, kindness and heart-warming moments that are beautifully portrayed through the photos captured by Muhammed and Reem.
For Muslims, this lockdown shows us what the real essence of this sacred month is: strengthening our relationship with God. It is now that we, more than ever before, truly get the chance to understand what gratitude means. We should be grateful for having the dearest people around us, for receiving endless love and support, for being able to make our prayers and so much more. A Ramadan in lockdown is a blessing in disguise.”
During this time of uncertainty, imagery has the power to connect and unite people around the world whilst also allowing people to capture and commemorate their individual experience during the pandemic. These poignant photographs captured by Muhammed and Reem, in partnership with Canon are a window into their households during lockdown, allowing communities to share their practice with those celebrating in isolation around the world.
Luca Rocco, who supports Canon in designing strategic initiatives around Photography said, “Canon believes in the power of imagery to educate, nurture and celebrate culture. In a time like this, photography allows people to connect with each other by offering a vision of their world. Generosity permeates this project, which is an incredible way to memorialize this extraordinary time in history, as seen through the lens of those who are observing the holy month of Ramadan.”