See more of our coronavirus coverage, including community resources and personal stories.

The Muslim celebration of Ramadan has begun. The 29-day holiday, that began Friday, coincides with the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. This year, it falls in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic. But for the Bajbouj-Kinjawi family in North Attleborough, the meaning of Ramadan is amplified.

Amjad Kinjawi is standing in his living room, leading his son and daughter in the Maghreb, a Ramadan prayer done after breaking fast. Then they bow in prayer with their eyes closed. They are facing East, towards Mecca, but away from the laptop positioned on the dining table where I’m on the other side of the screen. When they are finished, Amjad comes back to the table, and his kids start to play Minecraft.

"So basically," Amjad explained, "in the normal days, this would be the time where I would have my coffee and probably head to the mosque."

But there’s nothing normal about this year’s Ramadan. As the holiest time of the year for Muslims, Ramadan is centered on a daily fast and a nightly breaking of the fast, or iftar, where families come together in big numbers to eat and then head to the mosque.

This year, COVID-19 has prevented the nearly 2 billion Muslims in the world from gathering together in prayer and celebration. But for Amjad and his family, this change in celebration does not take away from the meaning of Ramadan. He explained that the fasting is supposed to teach people piety and clean the soul.

"It's just purification of the human soul into a better one, into somebody who feels the others, who's kinder. You need to be kinder to people, you need to think of your neighbors, you need to think of those who might be fasting by choice for those people who are fasting, because they don't really have the means to not fast."

If you learn all of these things while fasting, you are achieving a closeness to God, even if you can’t be physically close to other people. 

As the weeks of Ramadan unfold amidst the Coronavirus, Amjad plans to stay at home, but he prays that some restrictions will be lifted by the end of the month so that the Muslim community can celebrate Eid al-Fitr, the biggest holiday in Islam, all together again. 

To learn more about American immigration experiences, check out Mosaic, our podcast on immigration.