SUMMARY:This roundtable aims to bring together interdisciplinary perspectives on health, culture, religion, history and gender to investigate Muslims’ experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. It seeks to address issues including physical and mental well-being, religiosity and spirituality, collective culture, coping strategies, gender, social identity and justice, and how these interplay with one another across the global Muslim community. It also aims to highlight social and health inequities and shifting gender roles brought on by the current pandemic. Through historical and cultural perspectives, it explores how the pandemic has influenced or altered the Muslim societies’ habits and beliefs with regard to religious obligations, communal events, and health.
The first paper will discuss a research project conducted by an interdisciplinary team and in collaboration with community organizations to document the impact of the pandemic on the Muslim community in Milwaukee USA. This paper presents the project’s significance and foreseeing outcomes, and opens discussion with the rest of the panelists whose research investigates related issues in other communities and locations. The second paper argues that COVID-19 has fundamentally altered both the theory and practice of devotion (ibādah) and learning (Taʾleem) two central pillars of Muslim communal life among the Minneapolis’s Somali Muslim Community. The contentious issue of women’s role in leading prayer and informing the religious discourse is discussed in the next paper. This paper elaborates on the impact of COVID-19 on Friday prayer performance and female prayer leadership in London drawing references to both historical sources and contemporary debates on Muslim women’s leading prayer. The virtual environment of an online Friday prayer during a pandemic raises questions about the extent to which social hierarchies and roles can be maintained or eased in cyberspace. Another noteworthy act that has led to discussions of authenticity, and traditional and contemporary practices is the broadcast of online Hadra (circle of remembrance) by the Egyptian Sufi order Al-Tariqa Al-Muhammadiya. Focusing on this case, the fourth paper looks into the shift to cyberspace for having online rituals. The final paper returns to the issue of justice and examines the experiences of the deaf community in Jordan and their right to have access to information during the pandemic. From the standpoint of disability justice, it provides a critical perspective into how grassroots efforts can be reorganized in a way that is more empowering for deaf communities.