Ramadan during the coronavirus crisis
The coronavirus crisis hit most of us unprepared, and it is likely to also affect how we experience Ramadan this year. Many Muslims are used to attending communal gatherings (such as iftars and prayers, either in the mosque or with family and friends) during Ramadan. Lockdown, travel restrictions, and rules on physical distancing are going to render a lot of this impossible this year.
It may be true that from an Islamic perspective, Ramadan has never been about connecting with people. Nevertheless, the prospect of not being able to leave the house (nor receive any visitors) at all during a time that many are used to connecting with family and friends to worship together can be scary. This is going to affect all of us (and others have written about how to prepare for Ramadan under lockdown) – however, it is likely to be particularly challenging for Muslims who live completely on their own.
Learn from migrants, converts and single parents
Observing Ramadan in isolation is not new to all of us. For many converts, migrants, refugees, single parents, international students, people living away from their families, and those without access to a Muslim community not much is going to change this year. They have been living Ramadan on their own for a long time.
I fall into several of these categories myself and met many Muslims who are in the same situation when I organised Ramadan preparation workshops for Muslim students at university a few years ago. Most of us will not have experienced Ramadan under lockdown before, but many of the lessons learned from those who have spent previous Ramadans on their own may benefit others who are going through this for the first time this year. It is in this spirit that I am sharing 8 tips below.
1. Don’t lose focus
It can be easy to feel sorry for yourself and regret not being able to spend the month with your family and friends. Remind yourself that there is a reason why you are where you are right now. Allah would not have put you into this situation if He did not know that it is good for you, and He would not have put you into this situation if He did not know that you can handle it.
As believers, we know that nothing happens without a reason and that Allah is the best of planners. We also know that maybe we do not like certain things when they are actually good for us. We trust that with hardship comes ease. If Allah has promised this to us – what is there to worry about?
2. Make a plan
As a German, I truly believe that most things in life are made easier with a plan. If you spend Ramadan alone this year, you could start by thinking about how you want to spend your day. What time do you want to get up in the morning, when do you want to study or work – what about prayers, cooking, reading Quran, and sleep? Will you have time for a walk or some light exercise?
You might not even need a very strict plan, but just making a list of things you would like to achieve and then checking in once a day or once a week can be incredibly helpful. This might involve readjusting your aims if it turns out after a few days that they were too ambitious.
3. Be kind to yourself
Reviewing your initial plans is important because you don’t want to end up with unrealistic expectations. It’s good to be ambitious, but small and consistent actions are better than aims that might sound fantastic on paper, but that you are not going to be able to maintain. Be kind to yourself. Forget about what everyone else is doing – this is your Ramadan, not theirs.
If you find it motivating, use others’ aims and actions as inspiration. If you don’t, perhaps just log off from social media for a while – or skip those posts about aims that simply don’t work for you. If you are not sure what is a realistic aim for you, consider discussing it with a family member or friend who knows you well.
4. Speak with someone regularly
Try to speak with family or friends regularly. Silence can be a great thing, but at times the mind plays tricks on you when there is literally no-one around. If things are going great and you don’t feel like you need it – perfect. But if you think you would benefit from regular exchange with family or friends, try and schedule in one call a day. Maybe this is an opportunity now to catch up with family or friends whom you haven’t heard from in a while.
5. Join online events
Another way to ensure you don’t forget what speaking to an actual human being feels like would be to join online iftars or lectures. There may be organisations in your area that organise online iftars – or just get your family, friends, classmates or colleagues together and organise one yourself. All you need is a computer or smartphone and a reliable Internet connection. Zoom seems to work particularly well for people, but you could also use Skype, FaceTime or any other platform that facilitates online meetings. As to Islamic lectures, there is a vast array of content available online. Some scholars have also started moving classes online.
6. Eat well, sleep well
Eating and sleeping well is always important in Ramadan – but it is arguably even more important when you are not just fasting the whole day, but also trying to deal with the stress of being separated from your loved ones during a pandemic. Try to prepare simple, healthy-ish meals. There is no need to go overboard with the food prep during Ramadan.
If you are not an advanced cooker, there will be plenty of quick recipes online. Vegetables with some form of protein and some concentrated carbs (ideally in their wholemeal version) will keep you full and give you the nutrients your body and mind need – but the occasional takeout and splurge on chocolate and ice cream won’t hurt either. When it comes to sleep, different things work for different people (both in terms of the number of hours slept and when people sleep), but do make sure you sleep enough.
7. Enjoy Ramadan with the kids
If you have young children who live with you, you will still be on your own in the sense that you won’t have any adult company – but your experience will vary from someone who is literally completely on their own 24/7. This brings with it its own challenges and benefits. It can be hard to find a balance between finding time for yourself and worship while looking after young children.
But do remember that with the right intention, pretty much anything can be worship – and yes, that includes keeping your calm with your (cute but) annoying three-year-old. Try to enjoy Ramadan with the kids. Maybe you would not have spent hours making Ramadan cookies, decorations, or singing Ramadan songs – but when you do them for your children, they might actually uplift you, too.
8. Make the most of it
Ramadan in physical isolation may not be what you had planned for and parts of it might be challenging, but do try to make the most of it. Try to enjoy the freedom and space you have this year. Freedom to decide how you organise your day, the space to really focus on your connection with Allah, the opportunity to work on yourself and your worship – away from the usual distractions.
Count yourself lucky that you do have family, friends, and a community who are out there, even if you cannot physically be with them this year. And please don’t forget those in our communities who don’t have that privilege – not this year nor at any other time.