For new converts, Ramadan poses a lot of difficulties.
Especially a Ramadan at home. Mosques are closed, gatherings are banned and meeting your Muslim friends is near impossible.
So what should a new Muslim, who either lives alone or shares a space with non-Muslims do? How can they ensure that they still have a strong end to Ramadan, in a way in which they can still feel connected with their faith, extended family and the blessed month?
Do we completely optimise the type of digital-Ramadan we’ve been having?
Or should we disconnect?
We spoke with 5 Muslim converts who shared their thoughts on how new Muslims can still achieve a sense of peace, connectedness and leave the month feeling they have achieved something.
Dr Anse Tamara Gray, Islamic scholar based in Minneapolis:
Ramadan can be really difficult for converts.
But look to find digital communities that nourish spiritual growth.
In ‘Digital Religion’ you can build communities. Digital communities are real communities. They are connected to our feelings, they can make us sad, angry or happy.
So finding people who are like-minded online can help to relieve the loneliness, as long as we know it really is community and connectedness.
People can worship together, read Quran together, you can be a community of classmates, or maybe have Iftar online with somebody.
But if you find someone who can support your growth and vice versa, then you can work together and encourage each other. Also, spend a lot of time on your sajadah, on your prayer mat, this is a wonderful time for Itiqaaf, to spend time in solitude.
Idris Watts, Islamic Scholar and Somatic Therapist based in Keighley, UK
When someone becomes a Muslim it can be a tricky thing.
Some people become Muslim to be part of a community and connect with something. Other people convert for other reasons.
So it depends on the dynamics for the convert. If you don’t have a community to go to, than I’d recommend two things:
- Focus on education: Youtube videos, books, look for online resources so you can appreciate Ramadan. Study the Quran: reading the English translation – despite its flaws, it’s still the best thing out there.
- Look for Zoom or online resources where you can find other communities.
Cherry Dakin, Charity Manager for Revive Darul Arqam, Leicester:
I’d recommend a few things.
1. Don’t compare your Ramadan with anyone elses.
It will make you feel isolated and lonely. Focus on your Ramadan.
Acknowledge you won’t be able to do everything this year, like going to the Mosque or reciting in Arabic. But that’s ok. Know that you’ve got a high station with Allah because you’ve been chosen to come to this Deen.
Not a big or small thing you do goes unnoticed by Allah. So maybe you’ll get the same reward for reading the translation of the Quran in English as compared to someone else reading it in Arabic, due to your efforts and intention.
2. Set Yourself Goals
Try to come away after Ramadan with something you can take with you to the next world.
So memorise a short Surah, for example.
Even if it’s short, the effort will be multiplied by at least 70 fold.
You’ll know you have achieved something, you will have a part of the Quran in your heart!
3. Make Your Iftar Special
What I do at Iftar time is sit on my prayer mat, play my favourite adhan, look at the sunset, while listening to the adhan and be present. I then break my fast with dates. This makes me feel connected with the month and with the entire Ummah.
George Alexander Mitrousis, Maths Tutor, London
During this unusual time in quarantine, meeting up with fellow brothers and sisters in Islam is generally not practical whether a new Muslim or not.
So here are a few tips on what can be done:
- During this unprecedented period of a canceled weekly Jummuah, see if you can organise a weekly reminder with Muslim friends via an online conference call – turns out catching up with familiar faces, even virtually, makes a difference.
- Since the prospect of a meet up for anyone is futile, this may be the time to actually get comfortable spending time getting closer to Allah in solitude – after all our beloved Prophet SAW wasn’t a stranger to isolating himself for lengths at a time in a bid for spiritual clarity.
- Reading tafseers, watching YouTube lectures and talks are a possibility.
- Not to mention all the multitudes of webinars widely available especially during this lockdown period.
The opportunities are plentiful!
Shaykh Bilal Brown, Islamic Scholar based in the UK
There are a few things I’d recommend.
- The month of Ramadan is a month of connecting back to the Quran.
And that means understanding the meanings behind the Quran. If we don’t know Arabic, use a translation. The Quran is guidance but it can only be guidance if we spend the time to read and understand it. Speak to scholars and ask them to clarify the meanings and use it as a guide in your daily life.
- Don’t be too harsh on yourself.
Ramadan is supposed to bring us closer to Allah, not cause us unnecessary difficulty. So have that self-awareness to know when you’re doing too much and it’s having the opposite effect.
- Make sure every deed you do is sincere.
Whether it’s fasting, praying or charity, make sure you do it solely for Allah. Being alone can sometimes be a blessing because it prevents us from ostentation and arrogance, as we don’t have people to show off to.