Lonely this Ramadhan

‘It is your road and yours alone. Others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you’ – Rumi

Loneliness can cause a deep sadness that weakens your physical and spiritual health. I first realised how powerful my sense of loneliness was when I began to explore self-validation. My counsellor told me that I was always looking to others to validate me. I realised that I looked to others to rescue me from loneliness. Even with people around me, I still felt lonely. No one in the room was mine. They would all get up and leave at the end of the night. Being a revert and disowned by my family, I had absolutely no adult to call my own. No one to love me.

In Islam we should be grateful for what we have; we should look to those who have less than us and we should put our full trust in Allah subhaanahu wa ta’ala that He can better our situation. But how to actually practically achieve this mindset? It takes consistency and will. We can combat loneliness if we can see it as a problem connected to our thoughts rather than our realities.

What better time to eradicate loneliness than Ramadhan? A month in which we are encouraged to reconnect to Qur’an for spiritual guidance, inspiration and blessings and train our nafs to fight our desires and negativity, strive for happiness as we sit in our own company at iftaar whilst others sit with their families over the most blessed month. Here are my seven tips for dealing with loneliness this Ramadhan.

1. Accept that you are powerless

This sounds like bad advice, right? But I believe every act of self-help begins with acceptance. I say to myself ‘I have tried to snap out of this self punishing behaviour, but I am struggling and need a greater power to help me. Ya Allah, I need you.’ I strongly recommend this mindset of ‘submission’ i.e. Islam, submit fully to your Lord. Accept that you need the power of Al Hayyul Qayyum, the Ever Living and Sustainer, to lift you, to protect you and meet your needs. Train your mind to contemplate the One who can truly change your situation and correct your affairs. Your pit of emptiness will slowly begin to fill with hope. There are many duas that are more specific to loneliness that you should repeat morning and evening.

2. Embrace the solitude

Be comfortable with yourself in your own company. How? Stop thinking you are alone. This is a huge test on your reliance, trust and faith in Allah swt. It is not an overnight miracle. It requires consistent training. In your solitude talk to Allah. Find a time that is peaceful to reach out, but you must have certainty that by reaching out something will change. I thought suhoor would be a killer for me: waking up alone, dragging your own lonely self out of bed! I got up in the peaceful stillness, I made my regular tea and toast whilst listening to a ten minute Islamic reminder (alright, occasionally a Russell Brand podcast – all legit spiritual guidance). I realised I was enjoying it. Alhamdulillah that humongous pit was getting a bit smaller. I had trained my mindset with affirmations; ‘I am not alone’, ‘Situations are temporary and can change’, ‘Enjoy the stillness, the calm’, ‘Allah will help me’. Surprisingly suhoor turned out to be my favourite time of day. Do not forget, our prophet peace be upon him would go up to a cave to embrace solitude.

3. Reflect and create change

To be mindful is to question and reflect. This is a sunnah and a virtue that Allah swt mentions many times: ‘(This is) a Book (the Qur’an) which We have sent down to you, full of blessings that they may ponder over its Verses, and that men of understanding may remember’ [Saad 38:29]

It is an act of worship to think deeply, to ponder and take stock of yourself. Take advantage of your ‘alone time’ over Ramadhan to reflect. Begin to create the person you want to be in Ramadhan. It is a blessed month, Allah swt will shower you with His Mercy and provide that energy and will for you. ‘The gates of paradise have been opened, the gates of hellfire have been closed and the devils have been chained.‘ [Hadith Saheeh Al Bukhari]

Thus Ramadhan is the best time to establish new habits. Create small steps towards a positive mindset, e.g. go to taraweeh and absorb the blessing. Stand among others that wish to worship their Lord. Read the Qur’an and remember that Allah swt has promised you jannah. Meet with friends; realise you have people in your life that care about you.

4. Be hopeful

Optimism is an act of worship. By losing hope, you are falling into negativity about your Lord. Be hopeful Allah swt will answer your prayers, as He says: ‘I am what my servant thinks of me” [hadith qudsi]. Think positively of Allah swt. When you believe Allah swt will relieve your loneliness, you will enjoy the company of people when they come. You will find a new appreciation for those close to you. You will see that, in reality, you do have people in your life. The reality is how much effort do you put in to others and why? Do you want them to validate you? To what extent do you rely on them? Keep a healthy balance. You will also accept that things could be worse, so enjoy what you have. In essence your heart is being filled with peace, hope and happiness because you thought happily about your Lord.

5. Be independent – and patient

‘Whoever refrains from asking (of people), Allah will make him content, whoever seeks to be independent of means, Allah will make him independent, and whoever strives to be patient Allah will bestow patience upon him, and no one is ever given anything better and more abundant than patience.’[Bukhari and Muslim] This hadith encourages us to strive to be independent and patient. To refrain from asking of people, instead waiting for what Allah swt grants us. Patience preserves ones dignity. It does not mean that you do not seek help; it just means try to help yourself first.

Take your time in Ramadhan to be patient with yourself too. You are not an angel. You need time for this self healing. If, in your patient pangs of hunger, in your battle to not have a sneaky cuppa or break your fast because you are ‘dehydrated’, reward yourself with self love. Acknowledge your great achievements and hold patient. Your list of achievements will get longer as you become the happy, content person you want to be.

6. Serve others

Ramadhan is the best time for good deeds and charity. The rewards are multiplied. We find our purpose by helping others. It is not always about donating money; time can also be a gift. I love being a taxi service, making samosas with a friend, helping with paperwork, taking a friend shopping, babysitting, teaching – any opportunity you can give me to rid me of my sins and obtain reward. The least you can do is be good company for another sister who is struggling. Sadly we all know a sister who needs a good listener and shoulder to cry on.

7. Get a hobby.

Everyone needs an outlet. Life does not have to be deen deen deen. Find a hobby, make sure it is halal and keep it all well balanced. No Ertugrul for six hours straight over Ramadhan. Personally, I exercise (alright – I dance like a crazy person) for an hour once a week in my living room, it releases happy hormones and it is a very good work out.

So this is what cured me of loneliness over my last Ramadhan. I do not wish to belittle anyone else’s sadness, but I do know that by changing our mindsets we can achieve a higher potential. I look forward to this year’s Ramadhan: I am in need of my Lord’s mercy. I look forward to my solitary suhoors, the iftaars I have planned with friends. I aim to alter my mindset again a little (one aim is to stop texting all my thoughts to people) and I will do all this smiling. I am not lonely; I am content. Join me on the journey, for we all aim for the same destination.