Muslims are gearing up for the holy month of Ramadan, a holiday dedicated to worship, charity and community.
The month, which runs from April 13 to May 12, welcomes a retreat for Muslims from worldly and human desires and focuses on renewing their faith.
For 30 days from sunrise to sunset, those celebrating abstain from food, drink and sexual activity, and typically join in communal prayer and post-sunset feasting. Muslims eat suhoor, the meal that starts the fast, before sunrise and iftar, the meal that breaks the fast, after sunset.
With the pandemic still in effect and vaccines gradually being distributed, this year’s observances will be different from pre-pandemic celebrations.
So for Muslims observing and non-Muslims interested in the holiday, here are eight ways to get in the Ramadan spirit.
Imam Hadi Shehata is seen on a Facebook Live broadcast giving a sermon as he leads Friday prayers Friday, April 2, 2021, at Masjid Ibrahim mosque in Newark, Delaware.
Stay spiritually connected without community
Community plays an important role in spiritual connections on the individual level. Lacking the physical sense of community this year because of the social distancing measures, here are few ways you can stay spiritually connected.
Some local mosques conduct virtual events; check with your mosque or community center to see if they have any events that meet your interests. For instance, the Islamic Cultural Center of Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, has an event calendar full of virtual events.
Deepen your religious understanding through podcasts. One episode of a podcast each day can go a long way. Muslim Central has podcast series with speeches from well-known Muslim speakers like Yasmin Mogahed, Omar Suleiman, Nouman Ali Khan, and Mufti Menk. DoubleTake from the Yaqeen Institute seeks answers to important and relevant questions of our time. Check podcast platforms to see if Muslim speakers you like have podcast series you can follow during Ramadan.
For bibliophiles, curling up with a good read might be the best way to get your mind off those cravings while you fast.
Ahmed Shedeed, president of The Islamic Center of Jersey City, New Jersey, kisses the Quran, at the Islamic Center of Jersey City, on Wednesday, March 24, 2021.
If you like graphic novels, “That Can Be Arranged” by Huda Fahmy tells the story of how she met and married her husband, detailing what searching for love as a 21st-century observant Muslim woman can be like.
Get ready for Eid with “Once Upon an Eid,” an anthology with short stories focusing on the holiday right after Ramadan. The book features authors like G. Willow Wilson (“Alif the Unseen,” “Ms. Marvel”), Hena Khan (“Amina’s Voice,” “Under My Hijab”) and Randa Abdel-Fattah (“Does My Head Look Big in This?”).
Yasmin Mogahed’s “Reclaim Your Heart” isn’t just a self-help book; it’s a manual about the journey of the heart, your most prized possession, as it maneuvers through life.
Of course, for a more religious read, the Quran is perfect for Ramadan. There are many translated versions out there for all readers.
Try new recipes to satisfy those cravings
Cooking for Ramadan can be taxing and repetitive when you’re fasting from sunrise to sunset, so setting aside time to make some new recipes this year will change things up and satisfy all those cravings.
For suhoor, try “nature’s cereal.” All you need is strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, pomegranate seeds, coconut water and a bowl.
Birria tacos are a meaty, cheesy and fun way to open your fast. Let the meat slow-cook for hours and then put together the broth and tortillas as iftar time approaches.
Turkish coffee with desserts like knefah and rolled wafers are a great way to end iftar.
Of course, you can never go wrong with samosas and chaat or South Asian savory snacks. Pair with Rooh Afza, a pink, sweet, refreshing drink, and you’re set.
To finish off iftar and help stay awake through night prayers, try making some Turkish coffee. The finely ground coffee beans are boiled in a cezve, a long-handled pot made from copper or brass. Serve with your favorite desserts — we recommend knafeh, shredded filo pastry layered with cheese and soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup, and rolled wafers.
Virtual iftars and suhoors
As much as we miss those good ol “normal” Ramadans full of guests at our tables, you should stay safe until the vaccines are fully distributed. But just because you can’t invite guests over for iftar, doesn’t mean you have to have your meals alone.
Setting up how many meals you want to share with others virtually and scheduling them in advance will save you some headache this Ramadan.
For easier and more time-efficient scheduling, you can start a Calendly account, create an event for every meal you want to have with a virtual guest and send your Calendly link to your potential dining companions.
Friends and family will be able to see what days are available to them and sign up. They do not need to have an account, and the slots that are taken will not be available to other guests to see so you will not double book yourself, which is not uncommon during Ramadan.
Make all those prayers
Ramadan is a month of spiritual growth; it’s an opportunity to gain new habits that can continue throughout the year. For many Muslims, fulfilling their daily five prayers is one of the habits they want to leave Ramadan with.
Worshipers pray during a packed service Friday, March 15, 2019 at the Muslim American Community Association in Voorhees, N.J.
Set goals. If you do not pray five times a day outside Ramadan, set prayer goals before Ramadan and follow up on a planner and calendar. Tracking your goals will help you set more realistic goals for future Ramadans and chart your progress during the year.
If you already are in the habit of praying five times a day, consider adding extra prayers especially for nights. Finding a prayer buddy to check on each other’s goals also works all year long.
Set reminders. You can use the prayer app or set alarms on your phone if you need to pray around your schedule.
Designate a space. Having your prayer-appropriate clothing, prayer beads and mat in a designated space will not only make it easier for you to accomplish your prayer goals, but also will get you in the mood for the holiday.
Get festive and decorate
String up some lights, hang up “Happy Ramadan” signs and put together a date and dessert plate to fill your home with the Ramadan spirit.
You can find decorations at Muslim-owned businesses like Amasi Decor, Modern Eid, The Rustik Home, Days of Eid and New Jersey-based Muslim Holiday Shop. Amazon, Party City and Etsy also have decorations.
Amasi Decor’s Ramadan cake topper makes a statement on 17 Berkshire’s colorful cake. Suha Dweik and Saja Farrah decided to open the business after their disappointment in other decorations.
Support local restaurants and order takeout
If you’re too busy with work, life or just don’t feel like cooking, support local restaurants and order takeout.
Check out online menus and Facebook pages to find holiday fare near you.
For suhoor, order takeout from 24-hour restaurants such as Marlton Diner in Marlton, New Jersey, or Eagle Diner in Warminster, Pennsylvania.
For iftar, order from your favorite restaurant and follow that craving for fried chicken, ramen or shawarma.