Ramadan is the time to strengthen our relationship with God but for most of us it’s also time to connect with our families, friends and neighbours as we come together to break bread at iftar and pray tarawih in the mosque. This year, with social distancing measures in place in many communities, Ramadan may feel like a lonely month, especially for those living away from their families.

Without the social support we usually rely on, Ramadan may also be an uncertain time especially for those battling poor health or living in difficult circumstances. Alarming headlines are fuelling our anxieties, and nobody quite knows when and if life will return to normal. During this stressful period, here are a few things you can do to look after your mental health and support others this Ramadan:

Connect with your friends and family

While we may not be able to physically spend time with those closest to us this Ramadan, it is still possible to stay connected and strengthen our relationships using technology. Use phones and computers for video calls and the post, emails or social media to stay in regular touch. Hearing a friendly, familiar voice, or reading a message from those we care about helps us feel more connected. This is important for our mental health and especially for those who may be feeling lonely, isolated and afraid about what is happening.

Try holding a virtual iftar gathering via video call. This can be as big or intimate as you like, perhaps starting off with a prayer or dhikr and then breaking fast and eating ‘together.’ It may seem a little odd at first, but it can help to create a community feel and keep our spirits up. It’s a chance to share that special moment of iftar with loved ones and also show off your culinary skills too!

Share food with your neighbours

Helping and being kind to others can help with our own wellbeing as it creates a sense of purpose and helps to strengthen bonds.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) encouraged the sharing of food, saying: “He who breaks another’s fast earns the same reward as the one who fasted, without diminishing the latter’s reward in the slightest,” (Hadith, Tirmidhi).

Muslims are therefore keen to share food with Muslim and non-Muslim neighbours and friends in Ramadan. In some communities there is a tradition of organising iftar parties and running free food kitchens for poorer families

This year, you can still cook food and send food to your neighbours provided you take care to do so hygienically. In order to avoid social contact, you may want to simply leave the food on their doorstop and drop them a note over text. Anyone receiving the food should also take care to ensure all packaging is removed and disposed of safely to avoid any risk of contamination. Always follow the advice of your local health authority.

Take extra care to look out for particularly vulnerable neighbours this Ramadan, such as the ill and elderly who may not be able to buy groceries or cook for themselves. Indeed, the Prophet (peace be upon him) advised: “He does not truly believe who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry by his side,” (Hadith, Bukhari).Reach out for support

Reach out for support

As well as reaching out to your friends and family, the internet can also be a great way to find external support if the current situation has left you feeling anxious or low in mood. For example, faith leaders across the world are holding advice sessions, prayers and Qur’an readings over social media. These can help to create a much-needed sense of community and help us realise that we are all in this difficult situation together.

Some of us may want to reach out beyond the people we already know, to make new connections with other people. Online communities are ideal for this and can be extremely supportive. You may want to join an online community to talk about your mental health, which can provide a safe place to listen, share and be heard.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that rumour and speculation can greatly fuel anxiety and the internet and social media is full of negative and fake news as well as being a useful resource. Therefore, it is vital that you have access to good quality information about the virus and its implications.

Remember Allah is in control

This may feel like an unprecedented situation that is out of our control but remember it is the qadr of Allah and we were never in control. Worrying will not change the situation but take consolation in the fact that Allah can protect us if we reach out to Him.

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

“…Be mindful of Allah and Allah will protect you. Be mindful of Allah and you will find Him in front of you. If you ask, then ask Allah [alone]; and if you seek help, then seek help from Allah [alone]. And know that if the nation were to gather together to benefit you with anything, they would not benefit you except with what Allah had already prescribed for you. And if they were to gather together to harm you with anything, they would not harm you except with what Allah had already prescribed against you. The pens have been lifted and the pages have dried,” (Hadith, Tirmidhi).

Read more about Ramadan 2020 with Islamic Relief here.