For many Muslims around the world, Ramadan is the most wonderful month of the year. It’s not just about abstaining from food and drink from dawn to dusk—Ramadan is also a holy month of spiritual cleansing, religious reflection, and in normal times, plenty of socializing.
Although, admittedly, the lack of food and drink makes Ramadan particularly challenging (the caffeine withdrawal is real!), it’s one of my favorite months of the year. I love knowing that millions of Muslims are practicing the same rituals as me, doing their best to focus on bettering themselves and their relationship with God. Plus, there’s the added bonus of seeing all my Muslim friends at iftar (breakfast) parties while enthusiastically enjoying a smorgasbord of delicious food. I always joke with my non-Muslim friends that I can’t hang out with them during Ramadan because my social calendar is so full. With this year’s social distancing measures, however, Ramadan celebrations will look a little different than usual.
Most of us have come to terms with the fact that this year’s Ramadan will be devoid of Taraweeh prayers at the mosque and food-filled social gatherings. But just because we can’t break fasts nor pray together doesn’t mean that we can’t still stay connected.
In fact, because of the deliberate effort we’ll be making to stay grounded and connected this Ramadan, it’s likely that this year might end up being the most unforgettable one yet—and not just because we’re in the middle of a pandemic. The challenges that come with Ramadan while social distancing can easily be seen as benefits, so long as we shift our mindset.
Here’s how I plan to make the most out of Ramadan while social distancing and how you can do the same.
Decorate Your Home
In most Muslim-majority countries around the world, lights and lanterns dot the streets as part of the Ramadan festivities. Many families decorate both the inside and outside of their houses as well, something I’d never experienced until I spent Ramadan in Egypt a couple of years ago.
This year, get in the Ramadan spirit by decorating your house, even if you normally don’t. You can buy beautiful lanterns, lights, and signs from Etsy or Amazon, or even make your own. Decorations are already up at my house and the festive vibe makes me extra appreciative of how much time I’ll be spending here this year.
Pray Taraweeh at Home
Just because you can’t go to the mosque after iftar doesn’t mean you should forgo those extra nightly prayers. Instead, do them from the comfort of your home with whomever you’re quarantined with. Many mosques have taken to live-streaming Friday prayers and some will be doing the same for Taraweeh. Be sure to get in touch with your local mosque to access the prayer schedule. At my house, my dad has already designated himself as the house imam.
Focus on Your Relationship With God
Although Ramadan is supposed to be a period of religious reflection and spirituality, this sometimes gets lost in the midst of hectic schedules and dinner parties. This year, we can take advantage of all the extra time to reflect, pray, and actually finish all 30 parts of the Quran. Now, more than ever, is the time to reconnect with faith and express gratitude for health and loved ones.
Get Some Extra Sleep
Sleep is precious on a normal day, but especially so during Ramadan, when you can’t rely on caffeine to get you through early mornings and long commutes. However, now that most of us are working from home, we can take advantage of our former commute time to get an extra hour of shut-eye. A good night’s sleep does wonders for your productivity and mood and definitely makes the lack of caffeine that much more manageable.
Reconnect With Loved Ones
Take this time to reconnect with your loved ones—both the ones you’re quarantined with and those you haven’t seen in awhile. At my house, we’ve committed to watching an episode of an Arabic television show together every evening and are having weekly game nights.
Personally, I’ll also be using this time to do video calls with friends and extended family I don’t see very often. A few of my friends have even suggested we do weekly virtual “potlucks.” No matter how you choose to connect with others, remember that it’s still possible to be together while staying physically apart.
Try New Recipes—Or Perfect Old Ones
One of the best things to come out of staying home has been the seemingly endless amount of time to pursue activities I enjoy but rarely do under the guise of being “too busy.” My family and I are all enthusiastic cooks and have spent the last month taking turns experimenting in the kitchen. My mom has gently cajoled my siblings and I into (re)learning how to cook some traditional Egyptian and Sudanese dishes—and we’ve actually started writing them down. I’ve also taken to recreating dishes I’ve sampled during my travels and it’s been a success so far, much to the delight of my family.
Consider doing a similar activity with your family. Set aside one night per week to cook something new or assign different nights to each member of the household to cook something up. It’s a fun way to get the whole family involved and it’s so much more rewarding than takeout.
Perhaps this is the year to form new traditions. With the world at a standstill, let’s make this a Ramadan where deep connection—both to ourselves and to others—is one of many unexpected benefits of sheltering in place.