Ramadan is special.
It's a special time to connect with Allah.
And there is no shortage of information out there about how to maximize your worship--performing all¬†sunnah prayers, praying at the masjid, i'tikaf, reading Quran, attending a daily¬†tafsir class, Quran memorization, or other types of Ramadan 'enrichment.'
And with Ramadan falling in the summer, there's another focus on discipline and productivity and health, with super-nutritious menus, super-productive schedules, and strictly managed sleep.
No doubt all of that is important, but there's another part of Ramadan which I've found to be somewhat neglected for converts, and that is socializing in Ramadan.
It's the social aspect of Ramadan which made it special and beloved to me the first time I observed it.
Thanks to a great roommate, a welcoming masjid, and a bunch of converts in the community, I was really able to grow as a Muslim that first Ramadan.
A lot of converts struggle when it comes to socializing with the Muslim community, and it's especially difficult in Ramadan. It seems like everyone is observing it with family, which isolates many converts. But for me, Ramadan was a great opportunity to make friends and be a part of the community, even though the focus was still worshipping Allah.
So here are three tips to help you observe the month of Ramadan without it becoming the month of loneliness.
Try Not to Break Your Fast Alone
If you're invited to any¬†iftar, go. If you're worried about the spice level (or other qualities) of the food, then bring your own dish, but you can still enjoy the gathering.
Invite others to your place-- it doesn't need to be a cooking burden, just make it a pot-luck! And go to the masjid when they offer¬†iftars.
One reason my first Ramadan was so special was that I never broke my fast alone, and I was only at home for¬†iftar twice. Every other night we were either invited somewhere (or I tagged along), or else we went to the masjid, where always at least a few sisters were breaking their fast. A bonus of breaking your fast at the masjid is that you can pray there too, and you're already there when the time comes for¬†taraweeh!
Commit to a Class or Activity that Meets in Person
This can be a Quran-reading class or a¬†halaqah.
While there are so many wonderful programs online, if you can find one to attend locally it will be even better¬†insha‚Äô Allah.
You can make friends there who will join you on your journey. You could also commit yourself as a volunteer, feeding others on a regular basis--there is abundant need to do so, either at the masjid or a shelter.
For me, one of the most refreshing things to do in Ramadan was attend a weekly¬†halaqah. In my area I'm lucky that there are a number of gatherings, weekly and some more frequent, which I can choose to attend. There are¬†halaqahs for sisters, for converts, even a group that reads a translation of the Quran, gathering several times a week.
They're all great ways to connect with other people in the community and at the same time take some spiritual refreshment. Hearing a lesson, reading an explanation of a passage from the Quran or studying a hadith are all ways to help you focus your efforts in Ramadan, strengthening your¬†iman.
Volunteering your time to feed others is another way to facilitate social interactions, and at the same time it is a charity for which the reward in Ramadan will be multiplied.
Pray in Congregation as Frequently as You Can
Among the beautiful aspects of¬†salah is that you stand with your community, side-by-side. If you start attending prayers at the masjid regularly, you'll see the same faces, then it is easy to introduce yourself and make new friends.
This also holds for¬†taraweeh prayers-- if you attend consistently, you'll get to know those who are praying with you. Meanwhile, you get the multiplied rewards of prayer in congregation, and in the masjid.
And just because you're attending an¬†iftar at someone's home doesn't mean you can't politely excuse yourself to go pray¬†taraweeh.¬†But if you have no other plans, try going to the masjid, serving food there, breaking your fast with others there, and then praying alongside them for a win-win-win.
Some people may say,¬†"Ramadan is not for chit-chat." But that doesn't mean you¬†need to be, or even should be, isolated or lonely.
Just take advantage of all the opportunities for healthy socializing as well as the opportunities for¬†ibadah. And if you are feeling lonely, you can always make du'a, and ask Allah to surround you with good Muslims who make you a better Muslim too!
Remember that Allah is near, and that He answers our prayers when we turn to Him:
‚ÄúAnd when My servants ask you, [O Muhammad], concerning Me - indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. So let them respond to Me [by obedience] and believe in Me that they may be [rightly] guided.‚ÄĚ (2:186)
So all what we have to do is ask.
Wishing all brothers and sisters an excellent month of Ramadan, with many accepted good deeds and many new friends insha' Allah.