How a Muslim Woman Wants Allies to Support Her Community During Ramadan
"It's about educating [yourself] and celebrating it with them and letting them feel heard."
Sundays are a day to recharge and reset by hanging with friends, turning off your phone, bathing for hours on end, or doing whatever else works for you. In this column (in conjunction with our Instagram Self-Care Sunday series), we ask editors, experts, influencers, writers, and more what a perfect self-care Sunday means to them, from tending to their mental and physical health to connecting with their community to indulging in personal joys. We want to know why Sundays are important and how people enjoy them, from morning to night.
Eight years ago, when YouTuber and Instagram influencer Sara Sabry was in college, she and her friends did comedy sketches just for fun. "It was something that I shared with my friends, making fun of funny situations that we usually go through," the 26-year-old tells HelloGiggles. Little did she know, those sketches would bloom into a full YouTube career; today, Sabry has 162k subscribers on YouTube and 1.3 million followers on Instagram.
Sabry's platform first grew large when she moved from Canada to Egypt in 2015 and experienced a new side of her Muslim culture. "I got to really, really connect to being Muslim, and really represent that part of who I am, and it kind of just blew up from there," she says. Since returning to Canada in 2018, she'd shared her life on social media by talking about her religion's role in her life and speaking Arabic on screen. "I think a huge part of my career has always been wanting to represent this kind of community," she says. "I get to give a voice to people who haven't had a voice perhaps before or have not been represented before. This is my way of connecting to that part of my identity."
Recently, Sabry held a discussion about the holy Muslim month Ramadan, a holiday about fasting, prayer, reflection, and community. For Ramadan, Sabry partnered with Instagram and Facebook to create a #MonthofGood guide, which provides users with ways to spread positivity, support, and kindness during the holiday.
But while this is just one thing that Sabry has done for her community, she hopes her platform will continue to "inspire young girls to embrace who they are by being comfortable in their own skin, and even being comfortable if they wear a hijab or not," she says. "I'm very proud of being Muslim, Egyptian, Canadian, and a third culture kid. I think throughout the last eight years, it's been about building a strong foundation of who I am."
For this week's Self-Care Sunday, we spoke to Sabry to learn more about her mental health during Ramadan, her go-to self-care rituals, and how she believes non-Muslim allies can support her community.
HelloGiggles (HG): How has your relationship with Ramadan affected your mental health? And how has that relationship changed over the years?
Sara Sabry (SS): Ramadan has always been a time to reset and a time of reflecting about everything, whether it has to do with your faith or even your habits. It has been a time to address any unhealthy behaviors and build healthier habits. So, people can stop the habit of smoking, for example. People can start eating healthier or start journaling. And over the years, I think I've learned that it's a privilege, the fact that I get to practice Ramadan and be able to fast.
A couple of days ago, I heard something that was really, really beautiful. Someone said that they're not fasting during Ramadan because they have to, but because they get to, and I thought that was a very beautiful shift of mindset of the privilege that comes with being able to observe the month and participate. To just be able to resist temptation and to resist bad behaviors and focus on building healthier habits and better behaviors. And to just focus on self-betterment and helping others. And like I said, reflecting and disconnecting from the world and focusing on yourself, and how you can set an intention for the new year. Ramadan is like a reset button.
HG: What are some self-care practices or regimens you'd suggest others do during Ramadan for their mental health?
(SS): I would say honestly taking it day by day. Throughout the year, we're always busy running around, and we get obsessed with being in control and having a crazy routine, and I think during Ramadan, there's this special opportunity to be able to be kind to yourself. You do have to be aware that you are going to put your body through a lot, in a sense. You are fasting from food and drink all day. So, I would honestly recommend finding your pace. And find your calming escape, whether it's through prayer or meditation, or even journaling. That could have a huge, huge effect on mental health throughout the month.
Especially with a pandemic, we don't really realize how isolated we've become, how alone we've become, so taking the time to reach out to friends and family—people who you might have not spoken to in a while—could make all the difference in the world.
HG: What physical activities have you been doing lately for your health?
(SS): I'm not gonna lie, I'm not gonna be like, I'm running marathons. I've just been listening to my body and appreciating my body for what it's able to do. I'm letting my body know that it's doing an amazing job, rather than focusing on [what's going on] outside of my body or on achievements, like, "Oh, I'm working out five times a week, and it was a really tough workout, etc." But during Ramadan, you get to give yourself space. Like if you went on a walk, you're proud of yourself for doing so. So you get to really appreciate your body and respect your body for what it's capable of doing.
HG: How do you suggest others feel comfortable with fasting if they're celebrating Ramadan for the first time?
(SS): I would say find a good support system. It's all about feeling connected, breaking your fast with people, and also focusing on yourself. So if it's your first time celebrating Ramadan, take the time to really focus on yourself and set the intentions that you want. Take it day by day again, and see the beauty of what comes with this month.
HG: What form of care do you believe the Muslim community needs at this time? And how can non-Muslims be allies to their Muslim friends?
(SS): I think it's about feeling heard and seen. I've been seeing a lot of people on social media wishing Muslims happy Ramadan, and I think that on its own is so powerful. It's about just trying to just understand what Muslims are going through during this month and putting yourself in their shoes. It's about educating [yourself] and celebrating it with them and letting them feel heard.
That's why I created that Guide to Ramadan, to be able to spread awareness and educate people about Ramadan. It's much more than a religious practice—it's a month for everybody to be spreading good all around and be able to do small acts of kindness.
HG: Are there any self-care products and practices you've been gravitating toward lately?
(SS): I've been journaling a lot and listening to podcasts. Or even reading books. When it comes to products, I've been using anything that has hydration in it. I've also been connecting with my friends and family and taking time to disconnect, too. But I've been trying my best to take care of myself and take care of my health.