Connection and faith in a global pandemic

In a new year with the virus still present, and with Ramadan approaching, how can we utilize this time to set important life goals for ourselves?

As we have faced a difficult year filled with hardships and unprecedented challenges, we have survived and made it to 2021. 

In 2020 we had to adapt to a new school environment away from our campuses and transition to virtual learning. We missed out on family holidays, seeing our friends, attending important events in the lives of our loved ones and religious holidays. 

For those of us that observe Ramadan — the holy month where followers of the religion Islam fast for 30 days — COVID forced a very different experience than what is traditional for the month. 

As a follower of the religion Islam, and someone who will observe Ramadan this year, I want to compare and contrast my experience from last year to how we can now better understand how to have a beneficial Ramadan for all. 

Typically filled with in-person iftars with our Muslim and interfaith community, a shift to a virtual celebration was necessary during this time. While upsetting at first, we were able to attend through Zoom and discuss many important topics together before breaking our fast at dusk. And although it was not the same, it is important to recognize that we still have ways to communicate with our communities and are able to reflect on our own character throughout the holy month. 

Following Ramadan, it is traditional to celebrate Eid together in big groups and picnics. Instead, we did an Eid drive through where we handed out gifts to friends and our community through the car. Eid is very important for us. As a celebration that occurs twice a year, it is a way for us to celebrate, give charity, call loved ones, forgive those who wronged us and appreciate Allah’s — God’s — blessings on this earth. Even if we were unable to hug our loved ones and brothers or sisters in Islam to wish them a happy Eid, we were still able to see their faces and connect with them through the window. 

It is important to recognize that there are still ways to communicate and connect with people even during quarantine, and the value of this human connection is not lost with our physical distance. 

Now that we are in 2021 and Ramadan is about a month and a half away, I want to explore more ways we can make the best out of Ramadan, or just giving back to the community, no matter your faith or belief system. 

One thing that is particularly important during these times is charity. In Islam, we call this Zakat, and it is mandatory among Muslims as the deeds are so beneficial to the one who practices it. Zakat in Arabic means “that which purifies,” and the componians of our Prophet Muhammad — peace and blessings be upon him — used to pay Zakat al-Fitr a couple days before Eid al-Fitr, the Eid we celebrate after our fasting month. When you give charity, your heart, intentions and life purify.

Donating clothes and necessities to the homeless community in your area is one such way that you can practice selflessness. Ramadan is the time to remember we are all humans and guests on this earth, meaning our stay is temporary and no one is more important than another. Giving back to humans, our brothers and sisters, is an excellent way to purify our souls and hearts.

Another way to do this is by checking up on our friends and family, especially with our loved ones who we haven’t talked to in a while. Ramadan is a great time to reach out to them, see how they are doing and ask if we can support them with anything. Being caught up with hardships and business in our own lives, we may sometimes forget that other people are going through difficult times as well and would appreciate our message to them. 

Consider setting up your own virtual events during this time. Whether this event is with family, friends or your community, this is a beneficial step towards creating a support system and space to talk. This can include something more organized, such as a virtual interfaith Ramadan iftar, other community events or something more casual, such as a friends meet up. 

We should also be sure to continue setting goals for ourselves. It’s never too late or too early to change or add new positivity to our lives that will help us grow and heal. Sticking to these goals is important, and Ramadan is a great way to start since it takes place over 30 consecutive days. For 30 days you can make goals such as: taking a walk for 30 minutes, starting a healthier diet, creating boundaries with people who impact you negatively, reading a page of any book, or saying positive affirmations to yourself in the mirror in the morning.

By doing this for 30 days you can work to establish a routine for yourself. Even if you get tired in between, by not giving up it will be a goal to finish the full month with the honest effort put toward achieving your goal while also learning new things about yourself along the way. 

I don’t want to see COVID as a barrier to having a happy and eventful Ramadan this year. I know that Allah tests the ones he loves the most, and these hardships present in our lives are tests. I know that we can ace this test, and with the support and love of one another, we can make it so our happiness depends on ourselves and not on what we had before COVID existed.