BEIRUT, Lebanon — Sprawling banquets that convened crowds of relatives have shrunk to modest meals for immediate family. Imams who led prayers in packed mosques have been addressing the faithful over Zoom. And stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines have sapped the nighttime jubilance of cities with large Muslim populations, from Cairo to Jakarta to Dearborn, Mich.
For the world’s 1.8 billion Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan is a social and spiritual high point, a time to gather with friends and family, and to focus on fasting, prayer and scripture.
But the coronavirus pandemic is transforming this Ramadan across the world, clearing out mosques, canceling communal prayers and forcing families to replace physical gatherings with virtual meet-ups.
Ramadan, which most Muslims began observing on Friday or Saturday, is the month when Muslims believe God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. Fasting from dawn to dusk for those who are able during this month is one of the five pillars of Islam.
But the coronavirus has added danger to many of the ways that Muslims have observed Ramadan for generations, forcing modifications.
Some mosques, where men and women normally pray shoulder to shoulder and crowds spill into the streets, have made efforts to space out the faithful to prevent contagion. Others, from Paris to Brooklyn to Mecca, toward which all Muslims pray, have shut their doors altogether.
The rigors of fasting have birthed a range of social customs. Families stay up all night or wake up before sunrise to eat. Breaking the fast and the nighttime meals that follow are opportunities to gather with relatives, entertain guests and, for the wealthy, give charity by offering drop-in meals at street banquets for the poor.
But for many, this will be a Ramadan like no other, observed more at home than at the mosque, more online than in person, and amid greater uncertainty about the future.