'I can't tell you how many bodies we've picked up': Muslim community on coronavirus impact as Ramadan starts

  • Video report by ITV News International Affairs Editor Rageh Omaar

As British Muslims prepare for the start of Ramadan, this will be the first time many have done so without friends, family and other loved ones.

Coronavirus will have a huge impact on the Islamic holy month, where Muslims fast during daylight hours as a way of showing their devotion to their religion.

Statistics show BAME groups have been disproportionately hit by Covid-19, and the Islamic community in Britain is no different.

At a time when people should be getting together to celebrate, many are mourning the loss of loved ones.

Contributing to a Ramadan event on Friday evening, Prince Charles praised the way the community has worked together to tackle the virus.

He said: "I have every confidence in your remarkable capacity to rise to the challenges posed by this crisis, whilst embodying the Ramadan spirit of charity and selflessness."

ITV News has met British Muslims to find out about the different challenges they face during this testing period.

'The crisis is massive': Imam on effective of coronavirus on his community

Imam Khalil Ahmed from Newham in east London allowed ITV News to follow him for the day around Ramadan.

His schedule has been so busy since the virus began that he has only been sleeping two or three hours a night.

He was at the NHS Nightingale hospital in London on Thursday to pick up what he said was "the first body" from the makeshift facility.

As they unloaded the coffin into the mosque for ceremonial rituals ahead of the funeral, a colleague assisting Imam Ahmed, Imran Talati, said: "I think it (the crisis) is massive.

"For the past few weeks, I probably can’t tell you how many bodies we’ve picked up, showered (religious ritual), put a shrouding on and buried … it is very draining…emotional."

Imam Ahmed said: “We just want to be there for the families at a time when they need us. So for me that is how I have seen this crisis, is to be there for those that need us most."

He urged the community to abide by the Government guidelines during the coronavirus pandemic and said the spirituality of Ramadan can still be felt from home.

Imam Ahmed added: "The message we are giving people is that spirituality is not connected to the mosque, you can do many things at home. Everyone has an emotional attachment to the mosque so it will be difficult in that regard.”

'We haven't been able to mourn as a family': Covid-19 tears families apart during their time of need

Zac Hussain works as a charity manager and lost his mother to Covid-19 around three weeks ago. He now faces the prospect of a lonely Ramadan for two reasons.

It will be the first time Mr Hussain won't break his fast, or the first Iftar, at his mother's home.

Typically, it is a lively affair attended by her eight sons, their wives and grandkids, amounting to around 40 people.

He said: "For me it's going to be very, very different to be honest.

"It's a tradition within my family to come together during the first day of Ramadan so we can break fast together.

"My mum would almost insist upon all her sons to come along with our families and our children, which equates to around 40 people under one roof, so we can all celebrate the start of Ramadan together."

Due to the social distancing measures in place in the UK, Mr Hussain has not been able to mourn his mother's death with his loved ones.

He said: "Unfortunately my mother passed away three weeks ago and in light of the current social distancing guidelines, we as a family haven't been able to come together... we haven't been able to mourn as a family."

He added: "Tomorrow is likely to be the first day of Ramadan where we haven't been able to... come together under my mother's request... but also it's something she'd always look forward to.

"We aren't even going to be able to meet as a family."

While Ramadan is typically a time for celebration, Muslims across the UK will be forced to adapt to a new normal due to the impact of coronavirus on society.

To try and overcome the monumental change in how we live, Muslim communities across the UK, and indeed the world, are now looking for digital ways to come together to break their fast this Ramadan.

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