This has been a year like no other. At least not in my lifetime, or even my parents’ lifetimes. A global pandemic led to a springtime of self-isolation and now a Ramadan spent in quarantine.
Masjids around the world have rightfully shuttered their doors and there are no congregations allowed. I never considered that Hajj would be suspended or that visitors would no longer be welcome at the Kaaba. Holy sites were idyllic, safe places that seemed to transcend current events in my mind.
Now, I’ve learned that the Kaaba has actually been closed before in times of danger and disease, and even that the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“If you hear of an outbreak of plague in a land, do not enter it; but if the plague breaks out in a place while you are in it, do not leave that place.” While it’s very comforting to think that Islam is structured to safeguard us and that health takes precedence, it is still unsettling to deal with.
Ramadan is a month of spirituality, charity and community. Community is such a big part of daily Ramadan life, whether it’s breaking fast with friends or going to the mosque every night for Taraweeh (night prayer), and I definitely took it for granted. Those traditions helped shape my perception of this holy month, and it is hard to fill in the gaps from missing socialization and congregation. Two months of isolation have undoubtedly taken a toll on our collective mental health and general mindset and I know I’m not alone in admitting that I have not been meeting all of my goals this year. I’ve found that most other Muslims I’ve spoken to are also dealing with low productivity and mental exhaustion and that this year fasting isn’t so much of a physical challenge as it is a psychological one.
It is a unique and difficult time to worship as usual — but I think that’s okay. Unusual times call for unusual solutions. In an effort to overcome a lack of motivation and find ways to nourish faith from home, I’ve collected some ways people are adapting to facilitate Ramadan from home.
Zoom wins the award for the best quarantine tool. The app has a new use: hosting virtual halaqas! Invite a group of family or friends to come together for a Quran circle or discussion. Some have started their own Zoom Quran circles, where they convene every night to read a passage from the Quran and then discuss it. Others have scheduled halaqas: Each evening, a different member researches an Islamic topic to lead the session, and then everyone will discuss & reflect. This is a great way to connect with those you are missing while learning more about Islam.
2. Designated prayer space
Some people have set up a special area for worship in their homes. Just like having an office space at home helps you get work done, having a designated prayer space at home can help you focus on worship.
3. Virtual Islamic programming
In the age of technology, there are countless online classes, lectures, and podcasts available to us. Many have been created specifically for this year’s unique Ramadan. Many imams have even set up live streams so that they can now speak beyond their immediate communities. Imam Omar Suleiman’s nightly lectures and Dr. Yasir Qadhi’s 30 for 30 series both come highly recommended. Another useful tool is the Muslim Pro app. It has transliteration and translation of the Quran, audio recitations, duas, and more. If you are having trouble staying on track, try sitting down to learn at the same time every day to establish a routine!
4. Taraweeh at home
Although many of us are used to praying Taraweeh in the mosque, it’s just as valid if you pray it at home. You can make up for the tradition you’re missing while reading the Quran yourself. An easy place to start is reading four rakats, and move up in multiples of two. Keep your goals realistic and build up to eight or 20 if you feel you can.
5. Prepare traditional suhoor or iftar
Food is obviously important during Ramadan. While fasting is more than just abstaining from food and drink, we still have to start and end our fasts with it! A nice way to feel more grounded is to prepare some traditional dishes for suhoor and iftar. Tradition means something different to everyone — for instance, in my family, it means pakoras to break our fast — but whatever it is, seeing those foods laid out when it’s time to eat will hopefully bring you a feeling of normalcy.
6. Learn about fundraisers
Charity is a major facet of Ramadan. Take this time to really look into different forms of charity or decide where your zakat will be going this year. There are many worthy causes, so if you need someplace to start, check out Charity Navigator or Islamic Relief.
7. Virtual Iftar and dinners
If you’re like me, Ramadan has always been a time to catch up with old friends and share iftar. Even though we are all separated, that doesn’t have to end. Virtual iftars are easy to set up over video chat and a great way to stay connected!
Ramadan is still a collective, unifying experience. The Muslim community may be scattered and unable to physically come together to worship, but that just means we have to focus more on the spiritual core of this glorious month. Religion is a journey riddled with challenges and overcoming them will undoubtedly strengthen us in the end. Our growth, productivity, and resolve are not linear; they can come in waves, and once we accept that instead of beating ourselves up, we can truly make the most of this time.
In Islam, your intention is key. Even if we worry that the substitutions we’re implementing this Ramadan aren’t good enough, giving an honest effort still counts. It’s never too late to get started and try to make the most of your spirituality. While we are in the last week of Ramadan, we can use this time to not only end on a strong note but make habits that continue on beyond this month.