Ramadan is the most amazing month of the year for Muslims, but unfortunately, many girls and women still feel that they can’t fully enjoy it because of their periods, especially for those girls that tend to have lengthier ones. This negativity surrounding menstruation is a result of both their own internal beliefs and assumptions, and those imposed on them by society.
Many girls and women not only hide their periods (it is pretty intimate and personal after all), but they are often made to feel ashamed of it. So, they go out of their way to pretend that they’re fasting, or even isolate themselves, and end up practically fasting anyways out of fear of someone catching them eating or making food.
We should not be ashamed of this natural, and healthy process that is an essential part of who we are as women. God created us this way for a reason; our periods are building blocks for one of the most beautiful and awesome experiences of our lives: having children! It’s sad and unfortunate that so many of us are made to feel embarrassed of this God-given blessing, where we treat it as a disease and punish ourselves because of it.
Rather, we should embrace this aspect of our womanhood, and be proud of it. We women need to do our part in changing the perception and conversation surrounding periods in our community. So, let’s not hide away or feel guilty for following our God-given right to hydrate and eat during this physically tolling and painful time.
While, we aren’t suggesting to flaunt it or disrespectfully eat in front of those fasting, we should not let it get in the way of fulfilling our needs. It’s important to normalize this topic, and when possible, to encourage conversation and understanding with family members.
More importantly, it’s vital to change our own perceptions and feelings toward this monthly cycle, especially in relation to our spirituality. Despite what we may have been made to feel, our periods do not make us spiritually impure. Although it’s true that we cannot pray, fast, or read the Quran other than for educational purposes, as would also be the case in a state of junub, we can still do everything else.
We are now entering the last week of this blessed month, which are particularly rewarding, and we wanted to let you know that, although you may not be fasting (whether due to your period or any other Islamically-permitted reason), we still can all make the most of these days in which Layatul Qadr is found–”a night better than a thousand months,” as stated in the Quran. Below you’ll find some suggestions for the variety of ways you can still benefit from Ramadan and enhance your iman even if you can’t fast or pray.
Ramadan isn’t just about not eating or drinking, as the Prophet (SAW) said, “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting).” Abstaining from food and water and staying up at night to pray may not necessarily bring about eternal bliss, as all actions stem from neya. The purer our intention, the better.
As the Prophet (SAW) said, “There are people who fast and get nothing from their fast except hunger, and there are those who pray and get nothing from their prayer but a sleepless night.” In the same way, menstruating women can still reap the benefits of this blessed month, even if they aren’t abstaining from food and drink, and can’t pray, especially since this exemption is commanded to them by Allah (SWT), and not by their own choice.
Ramadan comes from the word “Ramdan,” or the rain that comes in the fall, which is meant to clear the air and soil of the dust accumulated over the summer, and renew the soil. This is what Ramadan is meant to be for us when we fast. It’s a renewal of sorts– a time of highly concentrated engagement with Allah to prepare us for the rest of the year.
It’s like hitting the reset button, but unlike a New Year’s resolution, this isn’t just words, it’s immersing us in what we wish it to be, and encourages us to keep it up once the month is over. Most of us try to pray more, make more dua, read the entire Quran, and study it in more depth. Some try to implement healthier eating choices, and fewer still try to start an exercise routine to help in their wellness resolutions.
As we mentioned briefly earlier, many people are unable to fast due to medical reasons, pregnancy, breast-feeding, post-natal bleeding, sickness, and even travel. Most of what we are sharing here applies to them as well. But we are specifically addressing girls and women who won’t be able to fast, pray, or read Quran for credit because of their periods.
Many scholars agree that we may read the Quran to learn from or memorize it, but not as ibadah, and that if we do, we should wear gloves, or handle the mushaf with a barrier, such as a cloth. However, everything else is still on the table, and that’s what we should concentrate on, even though we might not be able to partake in group prayers, or fully feel the eagerness of breaking fast at iftar.
For many of us, it feels a little sad because these are known to be two of the sweetest acts of worship during Ramadan. On the flip side, our energy levels are higher than they would be if we were fasting. Some suffer from great pain and discomfort for at least a few days while on their periods, and if you are one of those people, Allah gave you this chance to be able to take care of yourself.
So rest, take the remedies you normally would take for your pains, and thank Allah for not having to fast in this state. If you’re struggling to keep up with less hours of sleep, ask someone in your household to take care of suhoor, or simply prepare it the night before (as I mentioned in a recent article on suhoor), and stay in bed. But if you’re up to it, enjoy the extra energy and strive to do good deeds, such as preparing more careful meals, waking up with your family for suhoor, and taking extra care of yourself and your family.
However, your rewards don’t have to end with meal preparation and tlc (tender, love, and care). Take the time you have during your family’s taraweeh prayers to learn more about Allah, Islam and the Quran like familiarizing yourself with Allah’s names and attributes, for example, as Noor Tagouri and Dounya from the Unswtnd + Unfltrd podcast are. The Unsweetened and Unfiltered Podcast has so many episodes you can tune into about building your relationship and connection with Allah and Islam, including their most recent episode, “The Benefit of Laylut al-Qadr: Making Dua and the Power of Istikhara Prayer with Youssra Kamel Kandi.”
You can also read some tafsir, seerah, or learn more about the deen through the myriad of lectures being offered for free online on websites like Bayyina, Yaqeen Institute, and Cambridge Muslim College, among others. Also, make dua while your family prays tahajjud so you can join everyone else in trying hard to catch Laylatul Qadr, Inshallah.
As the American Islamic scholar Tamara Gray recommends, don’t think of it as being a break from prayer, think of it as an opportunity to increase your dua and istighfar. If you’re able and willing to get up for suhoor, take full advantage of the last third of the night to make dua. You may not be able to do the physical prayer, but Allah is still ready and eager to receive your dua, so why not take advantage of it?
Sometimes, we fall into the false belief that the only way we can communicate with Allah is through our five daily prayers. Allah is always listening to us, and everything we do within and outside of salah is being noted for us, so make the most of all these opportunities to be the best version of the Muslim you want to be!
There is a story about Aisha (RA) when she was about to do hajj for the first time with her husband, our beloved Prophet (SAW). As she was getting ready to start her pilgrimage, her period began, and she started crying. When the Prophet (SAW) saw her, he immediately knew why she was so upset, and told her that she could do everything the other pilgrims do, except circumambulate the Kaaba.
The same goes for those of us who get our periods during Ramadan, or are overcoming post-natal bleeding. We may not be able to fast or pray, but as we mentioned earlier, we can do many other spiritually benefitting things. We can help others in their ibadah, like teaching our children how to increase their khushoo, and continue to encourage good and forbid bad.
Some of us call our periods a “break,” but it doesn’t have to be a break from our remembrance of Allah, as the blessings of Ramadan continue, even if we cannot pray or fast. I like to call this monthly process one in which I am on “dua duty,” for example, but you may come up with your own positive spin on it.
The main point is that we all need to be more kind to ourselves, more thankful to Allah for this blessing, and to recognize that there is a reason behind everything, no matter how seemingly uncomfortable it may feel. Allah does not burden us beyond what we can bear, and He does not want any harm for us. He wants to make things easy for us, especially in practicing our faith, and we need to renew our trust and love of Allah every single day as a constant reminder, no matter what.
So we encourage you to stay strong and motivated to continue enhancing your iman and ibadah in the ways suggested, or any other form that is permissible and suits your particular circumstance. Whatever you choose to do, always have faith in Allah’s wisdom and love for you, and use your time to express gratitude and strengthen your relationship with Him as best you can.
May your ibadat be accepted and may you find Laylatul Qadr with an open and serene heart this Ramadan.