This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Zainab Ahmed. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Dear Muslim Sisters, Stop Pretending That You Don’t Bleed During Ramadan

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This story is a part of Youth Ki Awaaz’s campaign #IAmNotDown to spread awareness on menstrual hygiene and start a conversation on how sanitary pads can be made more affordable.

Are you a person with a uterus? Are you not expecting a baby anytime soon? Have you not had your menopause yet?

Well then, there are chances that you are going to bleed every single month. Be it during the date-night you have been waiting for, or in that amazing dress you have been dying to wear – the egg can crack anytime, anywhere. And no – there’s no stopping it!

Then, how can Ramadan – the ninth and holiest month of the Islamic calendar – be an exception? I mean, come on, your uterus doesn’t know what month it is, nor does it care, to be honest!

Ramadan is considered to be the month of exceptional blessings, and Muslims around the world fast from fajr (dawn) till maghrib (dusk) and observe taqwa (a path that leads towards Allah) during this month. As per the Quran, this practice of fasting is obligatory for every Muslim.

But, there are some who have the ‘divine license’ not to observe fast. Those who are travelling or are sick or pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and menstruating women (God knows the uterus won’t listen to anybody!) can miss a few fasts. These fasts must be compensated for, after Ramadan.

However, among all these exceptions, maximum secrecy is maintained around menstruation during Ramadan. Even though our society has now finally ‘accepted’ the female reproductive cycle (phew, what a relief!), women are still expected to hide it. We bleeding women are asked not to fast, as we usually need more nutrition during this time than during other days.

However, if we ‘pretend’ like we are fasting, and do not eat anything from dawn to dusk, we feel like champions. But tell me, if the whole point is about not starving yourself, why do we women – suffering from stomach cramps, aching lower backs, low energy, and volatile emotions – shy away from eating during Ramadan, even though we are allowed not to fast? Who are we scared of? Why do we maintain the facade of fasting, when it’s natural for us to bleed for five to seven days every month, anyway?

One of the major reasons for this facade is that, as a society, we still believe that menstruation should not be discussed or disclosed. So, to let our brothers, fathers, uncles and colleagues not know that it’s ‘that time of the month’, we pretend to turn into superwomen who do not bleed for a whole month, without undergoing any hormonal problem or getting pregnant (as if they won’t know!).

No, lying is just not enough! Us women love being tough on ourselves. So, it’s not enough that we only endure our periods – we also add insult to it by abstaining ourselves from the ‘perks’ they bring us. For instance, hiding in the bathroom to eat, or taking quick meals while dodging everyone, or ordering food under the name of your non-Muslim friends. Relatable much? We are all guilty of doing these things – and let’s just admit that we are all tired of them too!

Every year, I promise myself that this is the Ramadan when I won’t be pushed down by these prejudices, and eat as I do on normal days! Every year, I convince myself that I’m not doing anything haraam (illegal) and that people mind their own business.

But I don’t do anything. Every year, I break my promise. Every year, I fail to convince myself that nobody gives a damn about me eating or not eating. And, it surprises me how, I, who calls myself a feminist, want my male friends and family member to believe that I’m fasting – when in reality, I am not, and can’t, either!

Fasting – religious obligation or self-imposed suffering? (Photo by Waseem Andrabi/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

You might ask me why? Why don’t I just go to my kitchen and make a cup of coffee when I feel like, and have it silently rather than consuming it in front of a bunch of hungry or thirsty people? Why is it such a big deal?

Why indeed?

It’s because we live in a patriarchal society. Yeah, I know that it’s old news. But it’s one thing not to eat in front of a fasting person out of respect – and a completely different thing to feel guilty about having lunch or hiding in your own home to take a meal!

The real problem is that we women have become conditioned to this mindset of ‘hiding’ this natural process. Even in situations where we aren’t required to fake a fast, a lot of us continue to do so. While you and I might have different reasons for not fasting on a particular day, we tend to think that menstruation is the first ‘justification’ or ‘excuse’ that comes to people’s minds. And how can we allow people to know that we are the beings who survive seven days of bleeding, every month!

Actually, it’s not the men or the society we are afraid of. We are most afraid of ourselves. We don’t want to give ourselves the space or willingness to discuss menstruation. It’s we who don’t want to go easy on ourselves or embrace our identities as women and everything that comes along with being women, publicly.

Dear sisters, you have the ‘divine license’ to take a break from the fasts. Your iron levels are low, your body needs food and lots of water, and you are usually hurting during those days. Please don’t make it any harder than it already is. The problem is not that somebody will come up to you or me and make us uncomfortable about eating publicly. The problem is that we ourselves find it uncomfortable – and that is not okay!

I’m not going to be all preachy – but let’s not forget that this is our body. Periods are something that is part of being a woman. Obviously, it affects our health too. So, we really need to embrace it and be comfortable with everything that’s going on down there. And most importantly, we need to stop being apologetic about our existence!

Maybe, it’s not that easy, but here’s the deal – let’s try it out, at least? On this Menstrual Hygiene Day (and coincidentally, also the first day of Ramadan), I promise to apply my preachings to myself.

Oh, and if you’re a woman who’s reading this and has already dumped these stupid social conventions, then more power to you! But, if you’re like me who still hasn’t done it and are craving to do so – please think about this stupid, oppressive legacy that we have inherited – and maybe then we can join hands in changing it?

And on this note – Ramadan mubarak!

You must be to comment.
  1. alishaikh3310

    Beautifuly written more power to you Zainab

  2. R P

    More power to you, Zainab.
    However, when you say : Why indeed? It’s because we live in a patriarchal society.

    That’s an unhelpful statement because it does not address the core of the issue. Patriarchy is a word thrown around too often, and it is true that we still live in a patriarchal society. However, you cannot just separate society from religion – and a lot of religions, esp. god-mandated Abrahamic religions connect menstruation to being “impure”.
    Some people try to find a way to change people’s interpretation of these religious ideas by finding loopholes using pretzel-logic linguistic gymnastics, while you try to connect these ideas to a patriarchal society, in general. To me, personally, both approaches don’t help much, on a grander scale because you’re not going to change much, as long as you don’t target the texts itself that have been written by flawed “prophets” that lived in extremely patriarchal and primitive societies.
    I am not saying your approach isn’t entirely ineffective, but it will change society at a snail’s pace. If you want real change, you gotta go after patriarchal religions themselves.
    Good luck, may the force be with you.

  3. Sayantan Roy

    A big salute to you Ms. Zainab. You have spoken truely yet wisely.
    This Women empowerment shout outs by people around us is such a misnomer. A women in her life goes through Menarche Childbirth and Menopause and as a doctor I know how much that affects the physical and mental health of a women. A women is powerful to endure such events. Hence empowerment is unnecessary for a powerful being. What we need to ponder about is the shackles that patriarchy puts to liberation of women as a individual and community. And that freedom that comfort to women can only be provided by men. Unfortunately,Patriarchy is deep rooted in our society.
    We need more woman like to you to speak up. It was great reading your article. I so agree wid every word.
    More power to you and numerous such women!

    1. Danish Raza

      “Freedom to women can only be provided by men”????

      Are we supposed to take the above as a prohressive-feminist statement???

  4. rashi rawat

    Thanks a ton for the MUCH NEEDED ARTICLE. We need to free women from the shackles of dogma and prejudices. Having PERIODS is very natural and is a not a thing to be ashamed of. There are cramps, mood swings and so many changes due to period. And the taboos associated with periods exacerbate the pain.

    1. Danish Raza

      Freeing from ‘shackles of dogma’ would be – not fasting at all. Rather than just taking a patronizing discount BOLDLY from an unhealthy, superstitious practice

  5. Anshu Ydv

    I just loved ur post …
    U have spoken so truely
    Actually ur post needs an appreciation it will absolutely gonna to leave an effect on the minds of women who still believes on those hypocritical ideas nd are afraid to open about it !!!
    Good job?

    1. Danish Raza

      I dont get it. A post that seemingly supports the superstitious, unhealthy practice of fasting while asking women to enjoy their stupid little discount – needs to be appreciated?

  6. Danish Raza

    Please dont apply your cave-family’s yardstick to everyone. Most muslims dont even fast during Ramzan for anyone to notice whether women are eating – therefore mensurating.

  7. Sohail Shaikh

    Just read once Quran and Haadish you will get fact and rule of Ramadan.
    And stop Google everything go get a Quran and read it.
    And I am not angry I am just laughing on you that being a good blogger and your fact yet are not clear.
    Better luck next time

  8. Shahla Khan

    Dear Zainub,
    The major and only flaw in this article is that you forgot to mention a DISCLAIMER saying this is only your private experience and NOT A REPRESENTATIVE OF ALL MUSLIM women. Clearly, from the way you write about self-imposed suffering, it’s your own family. Because the comments over Facebook under your article show that in other Muslim families we don’t go as far as to tell every man in the family about the periods but we also don’t hide in the toilets in order to eat. In my own home, for instance, it’s pretty understood that when women of the house are eating, men don’t question them or even pay attention or act weird. It’s grown men, they know that women will be eating few days in the month. The drama and facade that you mentioned is very much your own experience and please mention that clearly.

    Obviously, non-Muslims wouldn’t know about this and praise the idea of removing the shame and stigma around menstruation which being a feminist I am all about, in fact, have a whole chapter in my book. But this piece of yours is a highly personal experience and if at all, very few women do that. In fact instead of thinking about period in a societal perspective, you should focus on your own- why do you think about it like that and behave in certain ways, have the men in your home asking you weird questions or has your mother put pressures on you or you yourself feel uncomfortable around the idea of periods… something to think about.

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