Ramadan: many Muslims are isolated in isolation
- Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic calendar, is a time for community and togetherness
- Due to the current covid-19 pandemic, many Muslims are alone without family and friends
- Mosques and community centres are closed for public safety and social distancing
Ramadan is a time for the community to band together and share the experience of the holy month through the act of communal prayer, family iftars and charity work.
Even during this Covid-19 global pandemic, families who live in the same house are becoming closer by spending every iftar and suhoor together, as the option to eat out or see friends and extended family has been deemed unsafe all over the world as countries try to tackle the outbreak.
Although it is a comforting thing for most to be in lockdown or quarantine with family during these uncertain times, what happens when you are alone during this month?
University student, Lubna Bukhari, is spending Ramadan away from her family due to the borders closing.
She said: “As much as I’m doing Ramadan for myself and for Allah, the atmosphere when there is no one around me doing it is just very different. I have to keep telling myself you’re doing this for yourself you’re doing it for God, keep going, keep going.”
Lubna's family are currently living in Abu Dhabi where this ninth month of the Islamic calendar comes with a completely different experience to what she is going through now.
“Everyone is fasting in Abu Dhabi because it’s a Muslim country, so there are mosques everywhere. When it’s time to pray you can hear the prayer call outside and you just feel like the whole country is doing it with you and it’s very inclusive whereas right now, I’m very isolated from it all,” she said.
As many Muslims around the globe face a similar situation for many different reasons, Lubna shares her thoughts and advice: “Just remember why you’re are doing it and don’t be discouraged because you’re alone. Remember what the whole point of this month is; to get closer to God, get closer to your deen (religion) and strengthen your imaan (faith)”.
Reina Sultan, who is fasting alone amongst non-muslim housemates describes the feelings around a loss of community during Ramadan.
She said: “You find your community of Muslims and you guys do your iftar together sometimes or go out to eat and stay out all night and then get suhoor in the morning and I feel like those things, it’s very weird to not have them and it does feel like a sense of loss.
“I feel like this Ramadan I’ve been a lot more reflective. I’ve been praying more and reading a lot more Quran than I normally do during Ramadan which is obviously really great and something I’ve always told myself that I’m going to do.”
To make things less lonely, Reina talks about a virtual solution: “I would definitely say to try and find little ways to make it easier on yourself if you’re really lacking that community.
"Something me and my friends were saying we were going to do was we were all going to facetime together like an hour and a half before iftar and we’d cook the same meal together on facetime and eat together at iftar as if we were in the same place.”
I can only imagine what it must be like to be fasting so far away from other people
Another way Reina uses her time during this month is to focus on forms of worship.
“It’s really been comforting for me to get involved with the faith on an individual level in a way that I haven’t in the past." she said.
"I do think that to find solace in Quran right now is very helpful because nothing really has changed about Ramadan and what it says in the Quran. We are in a really hard moment in history I’d say and there is a lot we can learn while we are practicing Ramadan by ourselves like this.”
“That’s not to say that it’s not hard on your mental health and stuff. If you do have access to mental health care and therapy this is a really good time to be working through issues. Yes, you should be reading Quran and you should be reading salat; and that might make you feel more connected to the ummah even though you’re not around anyone but I do also think that it is a good time to talk to mental health professionals and to talk to your friends as we are very weirdly alone right now.”
When expressing her experiences on doing Ramadan around people who don’t or who are not Muslim, Reina talks about how she has had to actively find a Muslim community to immerse herself in.
“I grew up in a really white, really Christian area when I was younger so I’ve had a lot of experience being the only person fasting. Recently it’s been a big point for me to try and immerse myself around other Muslims, especially during Ramadan.
"Growing up in that white area I felt like I didn’t want to seem different to everyone else but now I’m really embracing who I am and my religion and my culture.
“It is hard to be around people who are not sharing in this experience with me because it is just not the same. Whenever my housemates wake up and have their breakfast and drink their coffee, it’s like four hours after I’ve already been awake. It’s just there is no one else around me who is also doing Ramadan so it’s a bit weird.
“It’s sad but it’s also humbling because you have to remember that there has always been Muslims who have had to do Ramadan alone. Whether that be because they’re isolated from their family, they are a refugee who has left their family in their home country and they are by themselves now in a new place or even incarcerated Muslims in solitary confinement.
"They are really all by themselves all the time, which is inhumane in general, but I can only imagine what it must be like to be fasting so far away from other people.”
When fasting alone, it is important to remember as Lubna and Reina have outlined, that there is a lot more meaning behind Ramadan that not eating and drinking. Using this month to educate yourself, find yourself and be kind to yourself and others is a good way to fill your time.
There are mental health helplines you can call if you do feel alone and have no one to call. For young people, Muslim Youth helpline is free to call: 0808 808 2008. Also, there is the Muslim Community Helpline: 020 8904 8193