By: Theresa Corbin
While converts may spend much of the fasting month by themselves, this is not always a bad thing.
For Muslim converts, Ramadan can be a bittersweet time of year. New Muslims, like those born Muslims, look forward to the month in which they can regain some spiritual traction. But for the convert, the holy month can also be a lonely time.
For those new to the faith, being a convert very likely means that you do not have any Muslim family. This lack of Islamic kin can feel much like being orphaned, especially when Ramadan comes around.
Tiffany Jenkins, a young convert from Atlanta says, “I usually feel quite lonely and left out during Ramadan. Everyone else from Muslim families seems to have it better. [My family] would get annoyed when I would wake up early and start cooking.”
Adding insult to injury, converts are often isolated from Muslim communities either by geography or culture. Tiffany says, “I don’t know the Muslims here, though I’m not far from a mosque. But they seem to keep to their cultural groups.”
And Tiffany’s story is among those of a growing number of Muslim converts around the world.
However, Ramadan for converts does not have to be a bleak affair. There are some things they can do to rid themselves of any feelings of isolation and loneliness during Ramadan.
1. Tell everyone about Ramadan
Fasting in secret can be a daunting task. Always excusing yourself from invites to lunch or to share a snack can make you feel like you are the mole in a “whack a mole” game. So make your fasting public knowledge. The more people who know what you are doing, the more support you will get.
A great idea is to hand out a pamphlet about Ramadan to your friends and family like this one from the Ramadan Awareness Campaign . This will not only help those close to you understand what you are up to, but it is also a great way to teach them more about Islam.
2. Invite a non-Muslim to fast
Why fast alone? Why not ask the non-Muslim around you to try it? Your best bet will be to start by asking those who have expressed an interest in the idea of Ramadan. You might be surprised at how many people are up for the challenge.
You can stay in touch with them throughout their trial day of fasting to see how they are doing. You can even host an amazing iftar (the breaking of fast at sunset) for your fasting buddies, where you compare notes and tell them more about your choice to become a Muslim.
3. Find online support
Support from people who have been in your shoes can make a universe of difference. But finding it is the trick. Even if there isn’t anyone in your area who understands where you are coming from, there is always online support.
Ifoundislam.net is a fantastic resource for converts to Islam. This site hosts a wealth of information and enables fraternity. You might find a convert who can encourage you and keep in touch through the blessed month and beyond. (IfoundIslam.net also has a facebook group for people that have no Muslims to spend Ramadan with to share a virtual iftar with. You can join it here .)
You can also join a convert support group on Facebook. Or watch a video by converts in your situation like “Conver(t)sations: the Unheard Stories of Muslim Converts” by American Muslims. There is a wealth of online support and encouragement for converts so that you never have to feel alone.
4. Eat dinner with the family
If you live in an area with an active Muslim community that hosts iftar, it is very important to participate in these dinners to feel connected. Try your best to attend once in a while. It is likely that the more you show up, the more you will start to feel like a part of the community.
But if you live in an area that lacks any kind of community or even a mosque, ask your non-Muslim family if they wouldn’t mind waiting for iftar time to have dinner. If you don’t live with or near your family, share your iftar with non-Muslim friends. Sharing this meal can do wonders to squelch loneliness.
5. Enjoy the silence
Being in a Muslim family means you will always have someone to eat suhur (the meal before dawn) with. But being a part of a fasting family and trying to get everyone up and fed in time can be hectic. As a convert, you can wake up and take your time, eat what you like and enjoy the silence before anyone in the house is awake.
Similarly, the night prayers during Ramadan can be a great time to reflect when no one is around to distract you. You can pray as early or as late as it suits you. You can pray as long as you like, supplicate as much as you want and prostrate for as long as you desire. Also with no one around, it is easier to remember that Allah is with you.
Praying tarawih and eating suhur by yourself can be a relaxing experience. It is just a matter of focusing on the positives instead of the negatives of being alone.
It is especially important for converts with newly budding faith to experience the power of Ramadan. But all too often, converts feel left out of the holy month’s festivities. It’s a shame as it doesn’t have to be this way.
Communities – whether online or in person – need to provide support, protection and acceptance to converts, particularly at this time of year. And if you are a convert feeling isolated or lonely, try these suggestions to improve your Ramadan experience.