Last year, thousands of people gathered each night in the indigo dusk of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for taraweeh prayers. This Ramadan, Muslims are trading in the blue light of the mosque for the blue glow of their computer screens.
Covid-19 social isolation policies are keeping Muslims across the world from gathering in person for the evening taraweeh prayers and iftar, making this a desolate Holy Month. Fadumo Osman, who lives in Minneapolis in the US, was not going to let Covid-19 keep her from gathering with friends and family during this special time, so she started Remote Iftar.
As Remote Iftar’s tagline so aptly puts it, the Muslim community can continue to be “Still together, apart.”
Remote Iftar is a website created by 24-year-old Osman, a programmer by profession, that allows people around the world to be matched up with others in their time zone for Iftar. The site also takes into consideration their preferred video conferencing platforms and female– or male-only gatherings.
“Ultimately, my goal is for people to feel less lonely,” she says.
Within hours of posting about the idea on her personal Instagram, Remote Iftar took off, spreading from Minnesota to Dubai and beyond. In the first three days, more than 150 people from 30 countries signed up to attend a digital iftar.
While Osman hopes Remote Iftar will help create digital communities that might meet every night to break the fast together, there will only be two officially organized remote iftars per week.
Osman and her team are actively thinking of ways to maintain the open and generous spirit of Ramadan by allowing anyone to sign up to the digital iftars and also how to protect participants from “Zoom-bombing” by mischief makers using the screen-share function on the video conferencing app, Zoom, to take over video meetings and bombard them with obscenities.
That’s why they pre-emptively promise “transparency in how we plan to safeguard and establish community guidelines.” The community guidelines are there also to remind people that, despite being held virtually on a screen, a digital gathering still demands appropriate etiquette.
These minor considerations aside, the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Osman wanted Remote Iftar “to be a way to show people that we can still celebrate Ramadan.”
• Prior registration is required for a Remote Iftar — the first events are happening across nine time zones Sunday, April 26.
Alexa Mena is a multidisciplinary artist and media editor for livehealthy.ae. When she's not writing for livehealthy, she's thinking about design and how it shapes the human experience.