Episode 46: Virtual Holidays: Lessons from our Muslim friends (Transcript)
Nahanni Rous: Welcome back to Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive, where gender, history and Jewish culture meet. I’m Nahanni Rous, bringing you two special episodes for Rosh Hashanah. A few months ago, many of us had a virtual Seder. But back in April, we may not have thought that virtual High Holidays would be a thing. Well, now that reality is upon us, and many of us are facing it with mixed emotions. It’s hard not to feel disconnected, when we can’t be at our synagogues or share big festive meals with our friends and community. But of course... Jews are not the only ones who have experienced this. Our Muslim friends have already gone through several major holidays—including the month of Ramadan—in quarantine. So we decided to get some advice from Muslim women about how to get through a holiday season while social distancing. Today you’ll hear from Bintou Fall and Sukai See in the Washington, DC area, and Angelica Lindsey-Ali in Phoenix, Arizona.
Angelica Lindsey-Ali: My name is Angelica Lindsey-Ali.
Sukai See: My name is Sukai.
Bintou Fall: My name is Bintou Fall. I think the hardest for all of us was Ramadan. That was, that was a killer, I think for us. It was definitely a killer to not be able to be… it’s such a community month. It's a whole month, and, you know, for most of it, for all of it, we were at home. This was our very first Ramadan ever, of my entire life ever, remembering, being told that we can't go to the masjid.
Sukai: A typical Eid celebration without COVID... it's it's the best day of the year. It’s really fun. So what we do is we wake up in the morning, we put our best clothes on. We best put our best perfumes on, put our best jewelry. And then we go to the masjid for, for prayers.
Bintou: We pray shoulder to shoulder. Some of us stay until midnight. The last ten days, especially cause those are more, even more special days. The last ten days, a lot of people actually stay at the musjid.
Sukai: And then after our prayers, then we, you know, we congratulate each other. We go and visit family and friends.
Angelica: There is always a lot of food. There's a lot of festivities. In my family, I'm usually the one who cooks for all of our family and friends.
Bintou: I think all of us, when everything shut down in March, we knew Ramadan was coming in late May, June. I think all of us just started to pray hard that this was not going to last until then.
Bintou: Praying shoulder to shoulder is a huge deal for us. It's almost like a transfer of a spiritual energy as we're praying together. And you have to stay six feet apart.
Sukai: Because of COVID, obviously our masjids have been closed, so we had a live streaming of the actual prayer.
Angelica: I might be really, you know, out of turn saying this, but I really think it was the women in the Muslim community who really made the most of it because I think we're used to having to be adaptable to change. Uh, and I really liked the way that there was so many outlets. Like there were so many classes, I found an opportunity, as many other women did, to sort of take center stage. Uh, and so I actually had a class with over 200 women from fifteen different countries every Saturday during the month of Ramadan. And that gave me an opportunity at least once a week, to connect with women, to talk about Ramadan, to go over spiritual principles and really gain as much as we could from the month. So that was really, really beautiful.
Angelica: There were daily drive-through iftars that women like put together so that if people needed food that they could drive through or walk through or deliver. So, yeah, I think it's a time of trauma cause we're all in a collective state of trauma, but it's also a time of immense spiritual opportunity.
Bintou: So Ramadan was still actually very fulfilling. It got us to be, we miss that community. But on the other hand, I think all of us were just surprised at the advantages, the positives. For instance, I would often either take all of my kids and would break together at the masjid or we would break at home and then pray at the masjid together. But school days, right, I wouldn't be able to do that. I would often leave them behind this. This Ramadan though, we came up with very creative ways of involving the kids. So the whole 30 days of the fast, we were able to pray with them, break with our kids, pray with them. And then we were able to show them what we do in the masjid here at home, right. We, we taught my, um, my son to lead some of the prayers, which was, I think very, um, very new and interesting for him. Very, you know, very empowering for him. So that was a big positive.
Angelica: I would go so far as to say this year, uh, Ramadan and Eid were a lot more meaningful than they have been in the past because we have to be very intentional about who we chose to spend our time with. Um, we were very mindful about wearing things that we either could make ourselves or that we already had because, because a lot of the shops were closed. Um, we spent a lot of time curating the experiences that we wanted to have for our children, um, and with people who were within our bubble. So although a lot of the fanfare of the holiday is missing, I really feel like this was one of the best holiday seasons ever, because, because it stripped off all of the fluff and really, we got to focus on what the essence of the holidays truly are. So that, that made it unexpectedly beautiful.
Sukai: If it wasn't for COVID, let's say people had to go to work or for different reasons, people couldn't be there. People always think that you always have to go to the masjid to pray there for it to be acknowledged. But for this to happen, an imam showing us that you can do this on your own, you can do is wherever you are, it’s all the same. It will be accepted as the same. That was really great for people to know that also. In Islam, mostly is based, everything is based on intention. If you have the good intention to do something and it's not, you're not able to do it, you will be rewarded, whether you even do that intention or not.
Angelica: The best advice I have is to be thankful that we're all here. And to think about those, our families from our communities who are not here to celebrate the holidays, remember that the spirit of the holiday resides within the heart. And that's the same place that are our family and loved ones reside. So as long as we keep that at the forefront, It allows us to reap the greatest benefit. And have fun, be creative, let the kids get involved, let the kids take over because I really believe that the youth and the women, they are the ones that are gonna save us. And they're the ones that save us every holiday season. So let them take the reins.
Bintou: My advice would be, um, these holidays are very important for us mentally. I think—participate.
Sukai: With COVID, and staying home together—take advantage of it. Enjoy each other more, know more about your family. Take care of each other, love each other, care for each other, give each other time to listen to each other. Because we hope that COVID will go away soon, but this time that we have right now, we should treasure it and have it and spend it the best way possible.
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Nahanni: In these difficult and isolating times, we are grateful for the chance to maintain and strengthen our connections with friends and family. Thank you, Sukai See, Bintou Fall, and Angelica Lindsey-Ali, for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us. Thank you for joining us for Can We Talk?, the podcast of the Jewish Women’s Archive. This episode was produced by Sarah Ventre and me. Our team also includes Judith Rosenbaum and Becky Long. Our theme music is by Girls in Trouble, and music for this episode is by Pictures of the Floating World. You can find Can We Talk? online at jwa.org/canwetalk, and anywhere you get your podcasts…. Please take a moment to review us on iTunes, and share your favorite episodes with your friends so that others can find us. I’m your host, Nahanni Rous. Until next time...shanah tovah. Wishing you a meaningful holiday, however you are celebrating.
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How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Episode 46: Virtual Holidays: Lessons from our Muslim friends (Transcript)." (Viewed on May 9, 2021) <https://jwa.org/podcasts/canwetalk/episode-46-virtual-holidays-lessons-our-muslim-friends/transcript>.