Laiqa Bhatti, Surrey
Fasting in the month of Ramadhan is obligatory for every man and woman, except for those who are travelling or sick. Also exempt are women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or menstruating. As a mother of two, I have more than once been exempt from fasting for all those reasons. But when reading the recent articles on how Muslim women have been shamed for eating during Ramadhan, it struck me how yet again, cultural ignorance has been mistaken for Islamic rules. I have experienced both, the cultural ignorance and the true application of Islam’s openness in these matters. The former has nothing to do with the latter. In fact, it was Islam that lifted the stigma of menstruation 1400 years ago through Holy Scripture as well as through the teaching of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) and yet here we are again, subjugating women into shamefulness. Does Islam really require women to conceal such a common natural phenomenon that affects roughly 50% of the world’s population?
‘And that He creates the pairs, male and female,’ (Surah Al-Najm, verse 45)
When God Himself has created woman, then there is nothing in the functioning of His creation that is shameful. It is only Islam that not only gave rights to women such as the right to divorce, the right to inherit, the right to vote, the right to have an equal voice and at the same time normalised the differences between men and women. The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) openly spoke about matters pertaining to women, his teaching also demonstrated that menstruation was not something to be ashamed of. Muslim women are exempt from Praying, fasting and other aspects of daily life to ease any hardship this time may bring.
Sadly, as time has passed cultural ignorance has now in some sections of society infiltrated the beautiful and pure teachings of Islam and once again, women find themselves compelled to pretend something so natural and universal does not exist. When the Qur’an that is read by every Muslim man and woman, clearly speaks about menstruation, when the Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be on him) clearly spoke about menstruation to Muslim men and women during his counsel, how is it right to associate this shame surrounding menstruation with Islam?
Furthermore, the pretence of women not having menstruation verges on the point of deception and lying. That deception and lying can then lead into a myriad of other sins.
‘Most hateful is it in the sight of Allah that you say what you do not do.’ (Surah Al-Saff, verse 4)
How can it then be acceptable that women should not disclose that they are not fasting and instead pretend otherwise? So, it is simply not feasible to associate the stigma surrounding menstruation to Islam. It has been used as a beating stick since the dawn of mankind and Islam only normalises them. Cultural stigma needs to be removed as it hinders the truth being spoken and allowing Muslim women to practice their religion as it was prescribed for them.