Ramadan is less than a month away, and as many get ready to embrace this month head on, some of us may be feeling a little laid back, unsure about how to prepare and make the most of this blessed month.
For many women, this can be the case, and in this article I will be talking to women in particular. Some of us may be breastfeeding, others may be carrying a child, and many of us may be worried about how we can really utilise Ramadan when we have things like our monthlies and exams to worry about!
Hence this is an insight into ‘a woman’s journey in Ramadan’, how it differs, things we struggle with that men don’t, and certain rulings surrounding do’s and don’ts.
Bismillah, here goes!
Fasting Is A Spiritual Prescription
Allah says in the Qur’an:
O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.
From this ayah, we instantly learn one thing: the general rule concerning fasting is that it’s obligatory upon man and woman. Allah ‘prescribed’ fasting for our benefit. Just as a doctor prescribes medicine to an ill patient, similarly, fasting has been prescribed upon us in order to help heal us from spiritual ailments and cleanse our hearts and souls from sin. It’s not obligatory on those who haven’t yet hit puberty, the old, sick, the menstruating and the traveler.
A woman who is pregnant and breastfeeding comes under the ruling of ‘one who is sick.’ When it comes to fasting in Ramadan and whether she should or shouldn’t, there are two scenarios Ibn Uthaymin beautifully summed up in his Fataawa al-Siyaam. He mentions:
Two scenarios must apply in the case of a pregnant woman.
- The first is if she is healthy and strong, and does not find fasting difficult, and it does not affect her foetus. In this case the woman is obliged to fast, because she has no excuse not to do so.
- The second is where the pregnant woman is not able to fast, either because the pregnancy is advanced or because she is physically weak, or for some other reason. In this case she should not fast, especially if her foetus is likely to be harmed, in which case it may be obligatory for her not to fast. If she does not fast, then like others who do not fast for a valid reason, she has to make up the days when that excuse no longer applies. When she gives birth, she has to make up those fasts after she becomes pure from nifaas. But sometimes the excuse of pregnancy may be lifted but then immediately followed by another excuse, namely breastfeeding. The breastfeeding mother may need food and drink, especially during the long summer days when it is very hot. So she may need not to fast so that she can nourish her child with her milk. In this case we also say to her: Do not fast, and when this excuse no longer applies, then you should make up the fasts that you have missed.
For one who is menstruating, it can be quite a challenge to ‘feel’ spiritual when one is unable to fast and pray. It can leave many women feeling left out, as they are unable to attend taraweeh or feel the pang of hunger and thirst that comes from fasting. However, there are few other things they can do:
- Give charity: Charity doesn’t have to be monetary. A smile to your sibling, helping your mum with Iftar preps or volunteering to serve food at the community iftar, are all forms of charity as you are spending your time and energy for the sake of Allah.
- Keep your tongue moist with Adhkaar: Light on the tongue, heavy on the scales. Remembering Allah with our tongue is a simple and easy way to earn rewards. Morning and evening adhkaar, or glorifications of Allah and praises of Him throughout the day whilst you do your tasks, can amount to great reward.
- Listen/Recite Quran: Although a menstruating woman is not allowed to touch the Mushaf according to the majority of opinions, she can still recite Quran by memory or using a device such as her mobile, iPad or laptop. In addition to reciting, she may also listen to the Quran throughout her day, whilst studying or attending to the families’ needs. Remember, even reflecting on one ayah of the Quran will benefit immensely.
- Purify intentions: Many of us focus on acts such as salaah, fasting and Quran in Ramadan, that we forget that Ramadan is a month where we try to be more aware of our intention, and hence make even mundane acts such as sleeping, taking care of family, or cooking, acts of worship. This can be done by a simple change of intention. If we intend to sleep to have energy in the day to do more worship, for example, then that sleep becomes an act of worship.
- Listen to beneficial things, read beneficial books/articles: There are so many Islamic books, e-books and articles widely available and easily accessible. So if we can’t fast or pray, we can use that time in reading a Seerah book or listening to a lecture on Taqwa. All this will benefit us greatly, increase our knowledge and give us a spiritual boost too.
- Attend Taraweeh: If there is a separate place for menstruating women to sit, away from the musallah, then try to attend. Even sitting and being able to hear the Imaam recite will make you feel in the Ramadan zone and give you an opportunity to reflect on the ayahs of Allah.
Now that’s pretty clear, what next?
Intimacy In Ramadan
Ramadan, as we know, is a month of abstinence. We strive hard to resist our temptations and desires in order to focus on fueling our spiritual selves. Hence, sexual relations between a husband and wife in Ramadan is forbidden in the day in Ramadan, but allowed after Iftar all the way till Fajr.
For many however, after a full day of fasting whilst working or taking care of the kids, cooking and worshipping, it can be difficult to want to be intimate, and all you want to do is sleep.Yet still, Allah permitted this sacred act in the nights and has forbidden it in the day. However, acts such as kissing, hugging and touching are all permitted in the day as long as there is no doubt that it could lead to the actual act itself.
There is a sin as well as an expiation that must be made by those who have intercourse in the day in Ramadan. Firstly, their fasting will be invalidated and will have to be made up, and secondly, they have to repent and offer either of the following expiations, depending on which one he can do:
- Free a slave.
- Fast two consecutive months.
- Feed 60 poor persons.
Therefore, it’s important to remain within the boundaries set by Allah as not doing so has consequences and expiations.
The Muslimah Student
For many this year, Ramadan will be clashing with exams. This means many men and women will be preparing to sit their exams or will be giving them on the days of Ramadan.
There is a misconception that those who have exams are exempted from fasting, however, this is untrue and fasting still remains obligatory. Ofcourse, a student will have less energy to do more voluntary forms of Ibaadah, however, there are a few tips I have for the Muslimah student that can help make this period less stressful:
- Have heavy suhoor: This is important as many, due to the nerves a day before the exam, find that they have no appetite and hence skip suhoor. However, having a healthy meal at suhoor or dates for energy, will definitely provide physical strength, which will impact stamina throughout the exam. Even waking up 10 minutes before Fajr to have some snacks and a large glass of water will be very helpful!
- Sleep early: On the night of the exam, if you feel like attending Taraweeh will cause you to sleep late and thus feel tired in the morning and negatively impact your exam, then either pray Taraweeh at your home, or just pray Isha for that night to catch an early sleep and wake up for Qiyaam instead. Remember Taraweeh isn’t obligatory so it’s okay if you pray at home or pray Isha only for the night before your exam. But don’t make it a habit!
- Dua: Ramadan is the month of Quran but is also a month of mercy. If you are stressed and anxious about your exams, raise your hands in Dua and ask Allah to make them easy and place barakah in your time. Ask Him for success in both worlds and remember, Allah will not return your hands empty.
- Find balance: Don’t focus so much on your exams, that you neglect your worship and vice versa. Try to find the balance by scheduling a time for revision and a time for reading the Quran. A time for listening to a lecture on your revision topic and a time for listening to a lecture on Islam. Remember, balance is key and both are equally as important.
As a woman, especially if you have children, Ramadan can feel like an ordinary day full of cooking, cleaning and taking care of the kids. Try to prioritize. Folding the laundry isn’t a priority in your free moments in Ramadan as much as fitting in a page of Quran before the baby wakes up. Try to steal the moments, whilst the children nap, are at school or even whilst the baby feeds. There are many spare moments we can utilise to recite the words of Allah or listen to something beneficial. And most of all, don’t forget that we can turn any action into an act of worship if the action is good and if our intentions are correct.
May Allah allow us to reach this blessed month and place barakah in it for us.