It’s that time of year again – the blessings of Ramadan are filling the soul of Muslims around the world and bringing a sense of peace and serenity that’s a little bit difficult to explain.
In the past I’ve told you about the average day in Ramadan and cautioned people against becoming the ‘haram police’, but I haven’t told you much about what happens to people who can’t fast.
People who are sick, travelling long distances, pregnant, breastfeeding, too old or too young don’t have to (and should not) fast. But also, women on their periods don’t have to fast. For those who are in good health, they’re able to make up the days that they miss during Ramadan – so if you miss four days of fasting during Ramadan because you’ve got a flu, then you just fast four make-up days after Ramadan.
You basically have until the following Ramadan to make up those days – almost an entire year. A lot of people choose to make up those days pretty much right after Eid (the Muslim festival celebrating the end of Ramadan) because for the most part, their body is already in fasting mode and well-adjusted to not eating or drinking all day. It also means you won’t forget and have to make it up in a panic the week before Ramadan starts. Others choose to wait for cool weather to fast shorter days.
For those who are unable to make it up, like older people or people with chronic conditions, instead of fasting Ramadan or making up days later in the year, they are required to feed the poor for every day they miss instead. In this way, the charity and empathy of Ramadan can be experienced and shared by everyone.
Okay, okay! Let’s talk about the periods part.
Be warned, this post is not for the faint of heart.
It makes sense that during Ramadan women don’t fast. Not only are we losing blood and depleting iron stores, but a lot of us are tired and crampy and in pain and just generally unwell. The last thing we need is to be fasting. It makes perfect sense and of course I’m grateful for the mercy that comes with being able to take a break from Ramadan during a period.
Of course, you and I know that’s not the inspiration for this post.
Other women just know what’s up when they see a Muslim woman not fasting. We get it. So let’s talk about men making things weird.
You see, when someone (read: a nosey guy) says ‘why aren’t you fasting, sister?’ it’s super easy to give an answer when you’re sick or travelling or clearly pregnant.
But when you’re on your period there’s an awkward moment where said woman has some internal panicking and then stammers an answer along the lines of ‘uuhhhmm… uuhhh…reasons…’ It’s not that it’s haram or unacceptable to be on your period, but like…
WHO WANTS TO TELL A MAN THAT THEY’RE ON THEIR PERIOD?
It’s awkward and uncomfortable.
It feels so private but also intrusive but like, it’s natural, so there’s clearly no problem but also there’s a problem because it’s awkward and comfortable.
Of course, many women choose to avoid this conversation all together by just pretending to fast and not eating or drinking around anyone/men. No one can ask you why you’re not fasting or know your bleedy, bleedy secret if you’re just behaving like a fasting person, right?! HA! Problem solved, right?!
The really unfortunate thing about this approach is that women on their periods need to make up the days that they’ve missed later on. So by mostly fasting during the day they’re doubling their fasting burden for no reason.
Oh. And it also reinforces period shame.
It reinforces the idea that women have to be embarrassed by a natural bodily function that was bestowed upon us. I mean, I didn’t wake up one morning and decide that I should bleed for about a week every month. It just happens.
We Muslim women know this and hate it, but most of us just can’t overcome the awkwardness of it all. I’ve tried to be good about it. Like I’ve had a coffee at work and eaten a bun… I did good. But it’s not an easy thing to do and it’s going to take some conditioning… maybe.
So, brothers, friends – please. If you want to help make things less awkward could you just not ask us why we’re not fasting? The reason is always going to be personal and none of your business so pls stahp.
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