If menstruation starts during the day, the fast of the day is invalidated. If a menstruating woman intends to fast or refrain herself from any meals, even though she knows that it is haram, she is committing a sin and that fast does not count. Despite knowing all this, why are menstruating women facing dilemmas and embarrassment in having food?
Well, this is certainly a big question to ask.
I have myself experienced such difficulties and find it difficult to remain silent. For most of the year, women keep their periods under wraps. I’ve heard stories of men who have never even heard of periods because the women in their homes never let it slip. In fact, these women held their periods as a closely guarded secret. Imagine the shock these men feel when they get married and their wife is the first woman to share this ‘secret’. Unless of course, she chooses to hide it from her husband as well – trust me this happens!
Come Ramadan though, period-shaming is at an all-time high. Women go to extremes to hide that they are exempt from fasting. It’s not uncommon for menstruating women to wake up for Suhur so as not to alert the men in the family that they are on their period. And many women will not eat all day for fear of exposing themselves.
But here’s the thing – this is the most important time for you to nourish yourself. The Quran describes menstruation as an “adha” which translates to “hurt” or “discomfort”. We need to care for our bodies during this time, no matter what time of year it is, by eating nutritious foods and restoring our health. Especially if your period arrives during the early parts of Ramadan, you need as much energy as possible.
I understand the advice to refrain from eating in front of others out of respect and to avoid conjecture. But there needs to be some level of education, understanding and empowerment that should come with the natural cycle of life. Periods and the womb are symbols of womanhood, fertility and youth. We celebrate pregnancy and birth – but for these to happen women have to experience menstrual cycles, don’t they?
What really breaks my heart are the women who have underlying health issues having to compromise because of the taboo. Many women experience low iron and other deficiencies during this time and really should be eating and drinking regularly to replenish their micronutrients. I know of countless women who have fainted during their periods because they refused to eat during Ramadan in case they were caught.
I think none of us should be ashamed to speak of our periods. We must go forward and change our social mindsets.
Let’s stop surrendering to society’s scrutiny and start to celebrate our cycles. Periods are nothing to be ashamed of. Remember that the Sirah (stories on the life of the Prophet) shares stories about the Prophet being emotionally, physically and spiritually intimate with Aisha during her menstruation – she had a cloth wrapped around her pelvis.
He would lay down with her, he would fondle her, he would lean in her lap and recite the Quran; she would comb his hair, she would wash his head when they would bathe, and she would let him know when she was menstruating. There was no shame between them, and there was no shame when Aisha would share these stories. Let’s take a page out of the Sirah and tackle this taboo once and for all, not just for ourselves, but also for our children.