Sameea Jonnud, Aldershot
“O ye who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may become righteous.”
In the Holy Qur’an, chapter 2, verse 184 God has given the command to fast and so every year Muslims around the world fast every day during the month of Ramadhan.
I’ve recently seen stories on social media and on the BBC website about women who feel forced to pretend they are fasting and hide away to eat while on their periods. Some girls keep offering Prayers with their family while others are told by their mothers not to reveal that they are menstruating. This situation is so sad because it appears these girls are facing families who have little understanding or empathy.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is a natural part of her life but many women feel shy of discussing it openly. It is actually mentioned in the Holy Qur’an which should be enough to tell us it is a part of life. We are taught that certain people are exempt from fasting, including children, those on a journey and the sick. Menstruation with all its associated problems of cramps, back ache and more, is counted as a kind of illness in that fasting and performing the five daily Prayers would be a burden for a woman; “He desires not hardship for you” – Holy Qur’an, 2:186. And so menstruating women are exempt from fasting and the five daily Prayers.
When God Himself has ruled on a matter are these Muslim families ignoring the word of God when they don’t show understanding to their daughters and sisters? And even more sadly there are mothers who rather than quietly explaining to their menfolk, are complicit in this deception. As well as causing distress to the girls this is forcing them to lie, and worse, lie during the holy month of Ramadhan when we are all meant to work at becoming better people.
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, both boys and girls, have always been encouraged to read and understand the Holy Qur’an by reading translations and commentaries in our own language as well as reciting the original Arabic. This removes any doubt or shadow from the subject by clearly showing God’s teachings.
If God can tell us clearly the rules regarding fasting and Praying while on a period it should be easy for family men to discreetly understand there will be days when the female members of the family are menstruating and thus leave them in peace.
I remember an English aunt telling me about staying with a family in Pakistan when she was still learning about Islam and when her period came being embarrassed at being seen not to Pray with the rest of the family in congregation. The women of the host family afterwards calmly checked the situation and explained to her that she needn’t offer Prayers because God had exempted her on this occasion and there was no need to hide this from the men in the family by continuing to Pray. After this she never felt embarrassed.
Of course those who are not fasting are allowed to eat as the exemptions are for a reason but as for eating openly, if I can help it I personally prefer not to eat in front of any fasting person, male or female, not because I am hiding from them, rather out of courtesy and because I don’t want to make their fast more difficult by the sight and smell of my food. At the same time the men in my family have always taken it for granted that the women and girls will sometimes not be fasting and Praying.
As God told Muslims to fast “so that you may become righteous” it is a natural result that a little thought and understanding during Ramadhan is needed and as a result we will be making life easier for one another as well as becoming more righteous and pleasing God, because after all we are participating in Ramadhan for His sake.