For most Muslims, Ramadan is family time. You get up together, eat Iftar together, pray together, etc. But what if you don't have your family near you?
Waking up in a lonely apartment and eating food you've sometimes burnt in an effort to catch Suhur in time are some of the realities of being a single Muslim in Ramadan. But there are ways to make Ramadan special when you're on your own. Here are a couple of ideas. Please feel free to post yours at the bottom of this article.
1. Establish a Suhur telephone tree
Get a couple of friends together and establish a telephone tree to wake each other up for Suhur. Establish a time to call and a schedule of who will call whom. Make it a little exciting by adding some funny phrases every week that will really wake everyone up (e.g. "ASSALAMU ALIAKUM" This is the Suhur Sister/Bellowing Brother calling. Rise and shine y'all for some morning grub?).
2. Invite people over for Iftar
Even if even you couldn't eat the food the last time you cooked, invite people over for Iftar. Make it a potluck, order pizza or if you can afford it, get it catered. The food isn't the thing. The blessing is in the company, and you'll be rewarded for feeding everyone. Make sure to especially invite those who are away from their families.
3. Attend prayers at the local mosque/MSA
Even if the Imam's recitation isn't the best and the behavior of other Muslims can be more than annoying, try to attend Tarawih prayers organized by your local mosque or your Muslim Students' Association (MSA). While praying alone in peace and quiet is great, praying shoulder-to-shoulder with other Muslims with whom you have nothing in common except your faith is a unique and uplifting experience.
4. Get involved in community programs
It may seem hard to squeeze in time for anything else in Ramadan, but try, at least once, to do some volunteer work. Cook a meal for those who attend the MSA Iftar; volunteer for a day at a soup kitchen; help make or distribute flyers for a Ramadan program; make Ramadan Mubarak loot bags of candy for the kids at your local mosque. The possibilities are numerous. The point is to give to others so you can get back what's priceless.
5. Keep the Quran playing when you are alone at home
It's often tempting to keep the TV or radio on when we're alone at home to avoid the silence. This Ramadan, find a CD of a Quran reciter you like and play it during those moments when you want to fill your place with some sound. Choose selections you'd like to memorize, like the 30th part of the Quran.
6. Eat properly- don't resort to burnt toast and egg
Not eating Suhur and Iftar properly will make you crabby, irritated and sick (as opposed to healthy, wealthy and wise). Establish a personal Ramadan meal plan. Choose healthy, easy-to-make recipes so you're not scrambling at the last minute for something to eat.
7. Keep in touch with family and friends back home
Send Ramadan e-cards, thoughts, reflections, questions, etc. via phone or email to family and friends. Keep in contact at least once a week and share three Ramadan-related things you've done in the last ten days of Ramadan.
8. Take care of others
Know a new person at the school/office? Is a friend who lives nearby having problems with their spouse? Or is someone you know having money problems? This Ramadan, reach out with an attentive ear, a generous hand, and most importantly, an open heart to others. Don't let these small opportunities for gaining blessings slip you by.
9. Decorate your crib
Add some festivity to your spare surroundings by dressing the place up with a Ramadan banner, balloons and streamers. Even after a rough day, coming home to a decorated home is a boost to the spirits.
10. Pick and pursue Ramadan goals
Choose at least three goals to pursue this Ramadan. Whether it's curbing a bad habit or starting a good one, doing this will help you focus and work harder this month to change for the better. It takes 21 days to establish a good habit. With Ramadan, we've got 30. Why not make the best of it by picking up the good?
Photo Attribution - Hamed Saber - http://www.flickr.com/photos/hamed/277221852/