“For the majority of us Ramadan is a time for coming together and being with family, reconnecting with our faith together, opening fasts as a community,” says Sara. It’s a time of great importance and reflection, reminding us what’s important.”
“For as long as I can remember, I would spend Ramadan prepping food and planning meals to eat every night with my mum and brothers,” explains Basma. “We’d discuss what types of traditional biscuits to make, and what meat and special fruit juices to prepare. At weekends, we would retreat to cousins’ houses so we could fast together, staying up into the early hours playing games, watching movies, dancing and cooking. Some of the best moments I’ve had with my family have been on the kitchen tiles.”
“It’s really nice to feel like you’re a part of something bigger, especially in a society that is dictated by individualism
Lamisa and Zeinab also highlight the importance of Taraweeh, evening prayer during Ramadan at the local mosque. “It’s really nice to feel like you’re a part of something bigger, especially in a society that is dictated by individualism,” says Lamisa. “Taraweeh is something so special about Ramadan – standing shoulder to shoulder, praying in unison with the community and hearing Ameen echo through the masjid is a feeling I miss,” adds Zeinab.
How has Coronavirus impacted this?
“Ramadan has always been about family and friends laughing, singing and praying together,” explains Basma. “Coronavirus means that this year, we won’t have that opportunity, so technology is our best friend. Normally I wake up to WhatsApps from friends and family around the world – they send me funny memes and GIFs, and my aunts in Sudan or Saudi like to tag me in posts on Facebook. It means that we all still feel connected no matter where we are.
We’re also trying to set up virtual iftars so we can all break our fast at the same time, and I’m planning on hosting a Facebook ‘Watch Party’ – which allows you to stream videos together in real-time – as a substitute for the traditional movie marathon with my cousins. I only hope my broadband can handle it!”
Video calling has also been important for Lamisa. “It’s been weird not seeing my family for iftar but we call each other, as well as regularly video calling our family in Bangladesh and America, as well as my grandma in New York who I don’t always have time to check in on usually.”
And it’s not just families that are embracing technology during this time, but mosques, too. “Social distancing has had a huge impact on the sense of community and belonging that is such a big part of Ramadan,” says Sara. “With our mosques and centres shut, it has limited our access to teachers and community leaders who help guide our spirituality during these times. But many mosques are making content and teachings accessible online, so even though we aren’t together, we can still benefit and learn about our faith in other ways. We’ve been listening to online sermons and scholars have even made really accessible Instagram content. It’s been nice to see the Ummah still strive to connect.”
Ozayr, as a new mum, explains how Coronavirus has changed this tradition, “Iftar (the breaking of fast) is predominantly spent with family. Prior to Corona- the first Ramadan with our baby would have been spent with family from both my side and my husband’s. Unfortunately like so many others that hasn’t been the case. It means that just the two of us have broken our fast which is quite unusual to the norm. However we have tried to keep the vibe of this blessed month and decorated our home to create a special environment nevertheless.
“As a breastfeeding mum about to undertake Ramadan my main concern was that my milk supply could potentially drop due to my reduced food and water intake. After not fasting last year due to being 8 months pregnant (naturally) , I couldn’t help feeling like I had missed out on a really special month. So this year, I wanted to be able to keep some of my fasts with rest breaks in-between and find foods that would keep be nutrient dense with milk boosting supplements, so that is what I did! I have a lot of questions from fellow nursing Mama’s who were in they same predicament and I shared the love via my recipes on Instagram. After all, knowledge is power!”
Are you finding it easier to fast in self-isolation?
“There are pros and cons,” says Sara. “Yes, without external pressures of everyday life, such as going to work and school, it has been easier to find the time to dedicate and reset our faith. However, I am finding with the lack of routine, you do feel the fasts move slower.”
Basma agrees that the lack of structure to her days tends to make fasting more difficult. “Before Ramadan, I thought that it would be so much easier in lockdown, but in hindsight, being busy makes fasting easier. Now I am home all day and in and out of Zoom calls non-stop, I get thirstier faster, and fewer distractions makes the day longer.”
“Being able to pray on time in the comfort of your own home has been the biggest blessing of lockdown
For Zeinab though, it’s the opposite. “Working from home has helped me maintain a routine and being able to pray on time in the comfort of your own home has been the biggest blessing of lockdown”.
What do you think are currently the biggest struggles that young Muslims are facing this year during Ramadan?
“For those who are living alone – old and young – I think many are missing the community gatherings with the mosques being shut,” says Lamisa. “These are precarious times in general and young people’s mental health can suffer, then that can mean they may not feel so spiritually connected to the month, resulting in guilt. It’s important to remember that you’re doing enough and you’re trying your best. Even if you can’t fast this month, that’s okay, there are other ways to connect with Ramadan.”
For Basma, it’s being distanced from the people she loves. “For some of us who don’t live near or with family, it’s quite hard because Ramadan is all about family for me. So, I think the biggest struggle is the loss of a physical community, the extra hugs and the love that comes with it.”
Are there any resources or websites that are helping you get through this period?
“Social media has been instrumental in celebrating Ramadan virtually within our community, and helps bring people together even though we are apart,” says Basma. “Facebook’s global campaign #RamadanTogether has really highlighted the power of community during Ramadan, especially during this lockdown period.”
On Instagram, @muslimsisterhood is an inclusive creative community for Muslims, while the #MonthofGood hashtag is asking people to share their acts of good during this time – big or small – which is so important because “Ramadan is considered a time for giving,” says Zeinab. “As we can’t get together as a community and help each other, we have to find other ways of supporting our community. Donating online to organisations like Muslim food bank means we can still support those in need without all being in the same place.”
What are your 3 top tips for surviving a lockdown Ramadan?
- Think about how this time can benefit you, and try your best to use it as a time for reflection and remembrance of our blessings.
- Set yourself small spiritual goals, ones which are achievable and that you can handle, without placing the pressure on yourself to feel like you have to be doing the most. Reading one verse of the Quran and really engaging in it is more powerful than reading the whole thing and feeling unhappy.
- Remember that you’re doing enough. Be kind to yourself.
‘Ramadan Stories’ featuring Basma Khalifa and Mohamed Abdulle can be found on Facebook and is part of #RamadanTogether, a global campaign to highlight the power of community during Ramadan. Basma is also taking part in Instagram’s #MonthofGood challenge for Ramadan where Instagram is asking people to share their acts of good on Instagram – big or small – using #MonthofGood.