NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – The Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins this week.

The holy month is believed to be when the Quran was revealed to the prophet Mohammed – but now, social distancing amid the coronavirus means the religious observance will look quite different than in years past, reports CBS2’s Kiran Dhillon.

For millions of Muslim devotees, it’s an opportunity to center one’s self spiritually through daily fasts and prayer.

“This year, from all other years, is one that’s really difficult for Muslims globally,” said Dr. Debbie Almontaser of the Muslim Community Network.

She says social distancing will change significantly how Muslims observe the holy month.

Shut-down mosques mean the faithful will no longer be able to gather together to engage in nightly prayer and break fast at sunset.

Those that rely on the food they receive at the mosque to break fast will also suffer.

“We are very concerned for all of our community members that are going to struggle this Ramadan due to the food insecurity,” said Almontaser.

She adds families will also have to celebrate alone for Eid El Fitr, the holiday that marks the culmination of Ramadan.

“This new norm is really making people think twice and also reflect and try to compensate to fill their lives with the spirituality that they once knew getting through their local mosque,” said Almontaser.

Despite the changes, Almontaser says the community aspect of Ramadan will not be lost.

She says many Muslims have already started observing Friday prayers and teachings online.

Imam Khalid Latif with the Islamic Centre at NYU says the group is creating an online space for people to come together.

“We’re hoping to, as best as we can, create a virtual experience where people can join in and break fast with other people online,” he said.

Imam Latif says a silver lining of coronavirus and Ramadan overlapping is that an integral part of the month is charitable giving. He has no doubt Muslims will step up.

“There’s also going to be a lot more opportunity for giving and support of people in need,” he said.

Both Almontaser and Imam Latif say that while Ramadan may look different this year, the spirit of the observance will not be lost.

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