By Calisha Bennet
The blessed 10 days of worship are here once again as believers worldwide strive to catch the Night of Decree and it’s immense reward! Some feel great joy at it’s arrival. Others feel excitement. Some experience apprehension and others feel dread and anxiety. Why is it that the last 10 days of Ramadan is met with such a mixed response? For the revert Muslim in particular, fasting in Ramadan and being socially isolated is already a challenge within itself, let alone facing the well known expectation that believers are to spend most of the last 10 nights in intensive worship of Allah. What we don’t realise is that there doesn’t need to be so much pressure, anxiety, guilt and expectation upon ourselves at this time.
Below I’ve listed some potential ways to prevent and address some of the common struggles that reverts might experience during the last 10 days of Ramadan and in the lead up to Eid.
1. Quality over Quantity
Whilst you might think that what’s expected in the last 10 days is hours of extra prayers per day, dozens of pages of Quran reading, hundreds of dollars of charity donations, sleeping at the mosque for I’ikaf and surviving on just a couple of hours sleep per day – it doesn’t have to be that way. Although it would be wonderful to be able to do the above, it simply isn’t realistic for the average Muslim. Most have jobs, children to care for, limited budgets, homework assignments, family commitments and hectic schedules. The problem with measuring our Ramadan and last 10 days’ level of ‘success’ or ‘failure’ against such a high standard is that most Muslims will end up feeling inadequate or like they’ve failed and will likely end Ramadan feeling disappointed, guilty and dreading the struggle during the next Ramadan too! In reality the last 10 days (and Laylatul Qadr in particular) teach us the power and potential that lies within intensified worship for a short set amount of time in that we have the opportunity to earn 1000 months of worship-derived reward if we worship that one night. Likewise, through capturing little pockets of time and moments throughout the day, Inshallah we can earn amazing amounts of reward despite have busy schedules and daily demands. We can catch a few units of focused, connected prayer as opposed to many units of rushed mindless prostrations. We can read a few pages of Quran and be deeply affected by the meaning of those verses as opposed to countless pages of low quality, high speed recitation. We can give a few precious dollars from our limited savings and tight budgets and Allah could multiply it 10 to 700-fold as opposed to worrying about how to sacrifice time for worship to work more hours to find more cash to donate. When we focus on the quality of our worship and sacrifice for Allah, we enable ourselves to purify our intentions, to truly feel the sweetness of that worship and inshallah be just as rewarded as if we did have countless time, ability and finances inshallah.
2. Connect with Community
Whilst sometimes we wonder why people don’t reach out to us or notice that we even exist, sometimes it takes a little effort of our own to establish community connections. As you meet different people prior to Ramadan, save their contact details and make an effort to touch base or reach out if you think you felt good vibes with them. Attend community programs, events, mosque gathering and iftars as if you have every right to – because guess what – you do! The ummah is rightfully yours to be a part of and if you would like to have a deeper connection or involvement with the community then you will have to actively go out to seek it (or you might end up being lonely for a long while if you wait for it to come seeking you). Your experience during
Ramadan is what you make it so be brave and choose to seek out every benefit and blessing you can through connecting with the community and participating actively.
3. Find a worship buddy
Many Muslims reverts around the world often feel extra lonely and isolated during Ramadan. Not having daily iftar invites or a Muslim family to celebrate the breaking of the fast with and having to go to the mosque alone can leave a revert Muslim feeling super isolated and down. Most of us (however new to a community we might be) can surely find just one person to buddy up with to enjoy the Ramadan and Eid festivities. All you need is one other person (who likely might be feeling just as lonely as you) to share a few iftars with or to go the mosque for taraweeh, tahajjud or fajr prayers with. Don’t sit around and allow the sadness of being lonely overtake you and hijack your Ramadan experience. Send a message out to your phone contacts or even on your social media if you need to! It’s not ‘desperate’ to request someone to hang out with you – it’s a proactive approach to boosting your Ramadan experience as well as being there to uplift someone else’s Ramadan as well as your own!
4. Plan for your Eid
Like Ramadan, Eid can also be a lonely time for some Muslims and reverts in particular. The best way to prevent a lonely Eid is to plan ahead for what you want it to be! Once again don’t wait for someone else to come to the rescue – be your own hero and make Eid amazing in your own way according to what you would like to do and experience! Organise an Eid breakfast, lunch or dinner gathering for some people you know by having it at your place or even a restaurant. Organise a nice outfit to wear on the day, do some baking of delicious treats to share or give out (or eat all of them yourself if you like lol). Decide where you want to pray your Eid prayer and if you wish to go alone or take your newly found worship buddy with you! Think about who you could visit on the few days of Eid – and enjoy their cultural foods and ways to celebrate. Prepare some Eid gifts for your family and loved ones – even if they aren’t Muslim you could gift them presents to share in your celebrations and warm their hearts to Islam too. Study the etiquette of Eid, what to say and do, how to do the Eid prayer and more so you feel ready for the religious rituals of the day.
5. Give back
Remember that one of the best ways to soothe your own pain is the soothe the pain of others. So seek out the lonely in the last 10 days and Eid and give them the comfort of your company. Seek out the hungry and provide them with food. Find those with transportation struggles and drive them to iftars and prayers. Volunteer at the mosque to clean up or serve the free iftars. There are so many ways to give back to the community – both Muslim and non-Muslim during Ramadan and these acts of service can give you priceless feelings of fulfillment and happiness alhamdulillah. Focusing on fulfilling the needs and alleviating the hardships of others helps to detract from and alleviate the pain of what might be missing or difficult in your life. Allah SWT will compensate every good act done with even more goodness, so the trade-off is definitely a win-win for Muslims alhamdulillah!
6. Involve your Non-Muslim friends and family
If your non-Muslim family and friends are friendly towards you and your choice of Islam then consider involving them in your Ramadan and Eid festivities. Whilst you might think they wouldn’t be interested, it just might be that they are super curious and would love to know more and get involved (and even give fasting a try!).
You could invite them for an Iftar or for Eid lunch. You could give them small gifts or take them to see a mosque and meet other Muslims
7. Look to the Companions for inspiration
Whilst you might feel like the only Muslim in the world who feels like Ramadan is a hard and lonely time, remember that just like you, the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad PBUH were also reverts to Islam and also struggled with loneliness, hardship and in their efforts at times. They felt that their faith would waver, they struggled with their non Muslim families and old friends (just like many reverts do), and likely they found fasting and worship a challenge too (just imagine fasting in the heat of the desert in Arabia subhanallah!). They also had the Prophet SAW before them as a constant reminder and example of complete dedication to the obedience and worship of Allah SWT. Imagine witnessing his devotion and then weighting your efforts up against that?! Yet subhanallah, we don’t hear narrations where he scolded them for ‘not doing enough’ or ‘reciting Quran enough’ or ‘standing in prayer long enough’ do we? Each and every believer making their best effort according to their own situation and ability is always enough in the eyes of Allah SWT alhamdulillah
“[And it will be said], ‘Indeed, this is for you a reward, and your effort has been appreciated.’” (Qur’an, 76:22)
About the author:
Calisha Bennett is the daughter of an Australian convert father and Cocos Islander mother. She is a home-schooling mother of 5 with over a decade of experience as an active speaker, community teacher and mentor of Muslim women, converts and youth. She has a background in Quran Tajweed, Islamic Shariah, youth work, education, coaching and fitness studies. She is the founder of Developing Diamonds which provides identity and success coaching, workshops, courses and retreats for Muslim women around the world.