Ramadan is a blessed and joyous time for Muslims around the world. It is a time for family, friends, fasting, prayers, and celebrations. We abstain from food and water for hours a day and it is a chance to improve ourselves spiritually. Many Muslims look forward to fasting and joining in with the festivities.
However, for some Muslims, Ramadan can be a challenging time. This can be due to many factors such as mental health conditions, for example, depression or anxiety, eating disorders or health conditions. Even being part of the LGBTQ+ community or a new Muslim can make Ramadan a difficult time.
The Qur'an states there are some who are exempt from fasting. This can include people with health conditions, children, pregnancy, the elderly and more. Whilst this rule allows people with health conditions not to fast, the feeling of being left out can creep in which can then lead to depression and anxiety. People may also feel judged or questioned by others by as to whether their health condition is a ‘real’ condition.
This is also the case for those who have eating disorders. Mental health and eating disorders are taboo topics within the Muslim community, as it is within many ethnic minority groups. Therefore, it can make it difficult to ‘convince’ people that you are struggling to fast. Fasting during Ramadan can trigger (or re-trigger) people’s eating disorders. This means, at times, it is not healthy for some to fast.
The month of Ramadan can be surrounded by food and family. Muslims will open their fast with Suhoor, this is a meal eaten before sunrise and before your fast starts. Then we will break our fast with Iftar, which is the meal eaten at sunset. Both mealtimes can be very food and family oriented, which make it difficult if you have an eating disorder or other conditions.
Pace yourself, take steps which are safe for you. It is important to remember that even though you may not be fasting, this does not mean you cannot take part in other activities during Ramdan, or that you are an inadequate Muslim. There are ways to still contribute such as volunteering at your local community, praying, or supporting others who may be struggling during this month.
Especially being students, it can be difficult to find a balance between studying and contributing to Ramadan as well as having other obligations such as our jobs, family, children, and parents. Our routines change and our sleep can be affected which can lead to burning out or difficulty concentrating.
Remember to put yourself first. Speak to your tutor or Student Support if you are having any difficulties or concerns. Do not be afraid to ask for extensions on assignments either!
For those who are part of the LGBTQ+ community or are a new Muslim, Ramadan can also be a lonely time. Some may be away from/not welcome with family or perhaps, their family are not Muslims. It is important to try and create a strong support network around you. This can be from your friends to a local or online community. At the moment, due to the pandemic, there may be events online such as ‘Eat Iftar with Me’ zoom calls.
Ensure to look after yourselves and do what is right and healthy for you. Despite what family, the community or others say to you, it is important to know that there is no pressure in doing something which is unhealthy for you.
Further resources for if you're struggling during Ramadan