YouTuber Rumena Begum On The Mental Benefits Of Ramadan During Lockdown

Courtesy BBC

As lockdown restrictions continue to change our way of life, practicing Muslims around the world are having to observe Ramadan in an entirely new way. However, despite Mosques being closed and family get togethers being put on hold, the month of fasting, reflection, and charity is far from cancelled, and BBC Three’s new show My Mate's A Muslim aims to shed light on how people are observing this important religious holiday during lockdown.

In the new show, which is currently available to stream on iPlayer, YouTuber and influencer Rumena Begum, along with rapper Krept challenge their mates Kritikal and Olivia to take part in a day of no eating and drinking to help them learn about the true experience of Ramadan. As expected, the two friends soon find it's not as easy as they expected, especially considering they can't leave the house to distract themselves.

My Mate's A Muslim demonstrates the daily prayers, the self-reflection, the inevitable stomach rumbles, and the eventual breaking the fast that Muslims experience every day during Ramadan. It's a refreshing, light, and informative way to learn more about this important holiday.

I caught up with Rumena over video chat to about how her month of fasting is going so far and what she hoped to achieve by taking part in My Mate’s A Muslim. An influencer with hundreds of thousands of subscribers across her various platforms, Rumena tells me why she is excited to share the Ramadan experience with a new audience.

Courtesy BBC

On Observing Ramadan & Celebrating Eid During Quarantine

"I can’t be with my friends and family right now. We can’t go out and eat together and break our fast together. Me and my family would usually hold a charity stall throughout the month, where we sell bits and bobs to our customers and get other brands involved. We get all that money together and give it orphanages, schools, and food banks. So that threw me a little bit because I enjoy doing that every Ramadan — also being busy I didn't feel the hunger as much! Instead, I have been at home being productive, praying, reading, and preparing dishes in the house.

"For Eid [the celebration that marks the end of Ramadan], what we usually do is wake up really early, eat and then we go and do rounds at our relatives house and then we usually have an Eid party in the evening. So this year, we’ll stay at home and we'll decorate the house so we can get that Eid feeling. Because Eid is all about getting together, having fun and eating! So it will be different but I’m hoping that it will still be fun."

On How Ramadan Has Helped Her "Practice Gratitude" During The Pandemic

"I remember at the beginning of the pandemic when everyone was bulk buying in supermarkets and quickly rushed to get essentials, then it really hit me, we’re panicking about food and drink running out, but what about those that live like this everyday — who don’t have access to food and clothes. It really made me think."

Courtesy BBC

On Taking Part In ‘My Mate's A Muslim’

"I thought Olivia would struggle but, you know what, she actually did really well. At first she thought Ramadan was just all about not drinking or eating a lot but she realised it was much deeper than that. It's about self-reflection, becoming more humble, being nicer, being charitable. She didn’t know all of that side, so it was great that she took that away from the project.

I want viewers to understand Ramadan a lot more. There are a few misconceptions, like we can’t wear makeup or you can’t brush your teeth, but you can. Even if you swear accidentally or eat accidentally, your fast doesn’t break. Fasting is all about remembering the less fortunate, self-reflecting and being appreciative of what you have.

I hope that [viewers] can understand that Islam is a religion of faith and peace because Islam gets portrayed in such a bad light on social media.”

On Being Comfortable To Discuss Her Faith Openly

"Ever since I started Youtube I’ve made it absolutely clear about my faith. I am who I am. And I don’t want to put out any fakeness about me. So I’ve always talked about my God, and a lot of people have engaged with those topics. I think people know I’m a spiritual person, and I’m glad I portrayed that from the get-go."

On The Mental Benefits Of Ramadan

"I feel so much peace. I feel mentally very strong, like I can do anything in the world. I’m so connected and so spiritual. I take this time out to really self-reflect and do the things I never thought I could do. I’ve been baking a lot. Something I never thought I would do. I’ve become this online baker!

I encourage everyone to [try Ramadan] for one day. Then you’ll really appreciate what you have. When you’re humble and grateful, you’re a lot nicer!”

My Mate's A Muslim is now available on BBC iPlayer.