Periods. Menstruation. The monthly cycle. Such a tabooed subject across the globe. A majority of women from all around the world are taught to hide when they’re on their period. Come Ramadan, and this age old game takes on a new level. You either dread its arrival, or are secretly happy to see it come as it gives you a few days to ‘take a break’ from fasting. Either way, we’ve been taught to mask any indication of it from the men in our lives.
I mean, I don’t think it’s necessary to hold up “I’M ON MY PERIOD” posters all week long or parade around shouting it to everyone you come across, but there needs to be some level of understanding here. Having your period is such a blessing. If you think about it, it really is a beautiful occurrence. It’s a natural event, exclusive to women, that cleanses out the uterus and indicates the chance at the miracle of life. We have the capability to produce life from within us. Can we just ponder at that for a second because wow that’s pretty cool.
We’re never taught to think of our periods in a beautiful way, though. It’s always gross, painful, sickly, impure, unholy, dirty, and the list goes on. We are the bearers of life, yet we have to suffer the most. I’m not talking about the physical pain we often endure during our monthly cycles, but the social and mental burdens we are so heavily weighed down by for no good reason. During the month of Ramadan, many women literally hide the fact that they are menstruating. We wake up for suhoor with our family so that our brothers, dad, husband, or any other male family member is not suspecting (not that many of them even know about periods anyway because they’ve been shielded away from it their whole life). We then proceed to pretend to fast all day long. We eat and drink scarcely, and only if no one can see. We even pretend to break our “fast” at iftar with everyone. I always end up feeling like a traitor inside. We silently suffer alone and in pain. This is not Islam and living like this is not virtuous.
The Quran describes menstruation as “adha,” which translates into “hurt” or “discomfort.” We have to acknowledge our body and it’s needs. If we are hurt we must take care of ourselves. Allah (SWT) has specifically exempted us from fasting during this time so that we may be at ease and not harm our body. So, why are we making it hard on ourselves? It is crucial for us to take care of our body during our monthly cycle. We have to nourish ourselves with food and water – this is not a choice, but rather a necessity. I understand the advice to refrain from eating in front of those who are fasting, out of respect, but that does not entail us to fast alongside them when it is very clear that we should not.
Often times we tend to confuse cultural taboos with religious rulings. This is very dangerous for a multiple of reasons. When it comes to being secretive about our periods, it is not as Islamic as we might think. Period shaming is not of Islam. Menstruation has been one of the most discussed areas in Fiqh. Aisha (RA), one of the most knowledgeable mothers of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad (SAW)’s wife, shared her knowledge on menstruation and other topics about women in much depth. This is a clear indication that periods are something to not be ashamed or secretive of. Why do we have such an issue with even acknowledging periods then? Our cultures have bred unhealthy mentalities that deem periods to be shameful and unnatural, when in reality, they are the exact opposite.
Even in the sirah (factual stories of the Prophet Muhammad) it is told that the prophet would be emotionally, physically, and spiritually intimate with Aisha while she was menstruating. He would lean on her lap and recite Quran while she was known to be on her period. She would let him know when she was menstruating. The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) never shamed Aisha for having her period. He would joke with her and still keep the word of Allah (SWT) near her. There was no disgrace between them. He was understanding and did not ignore the fact that women menstruate. We need to reflect more on how he acknowledged this aspect of life, and implement it in our own lives.
Often times during our periods, we feel as if we are at a loss because we cannot pray salah, fast, or even touch the Quran. This can leave many girls feeling hopeless and disconnected with her faith. It is important to understand that we are not defective because of our menstruation cycles. We are not dirty or impure. We can and still should practice our faith just as much during our period. Nothing can come between you and your sincere devotion to Allah (SWT).
We need to stop implementing these ideas into the minds of our girls, especially the youth. Our periods are special and a blessing. They remind us that we are not only healthy, but we are capable of nurturing life within us. There needs to be a source of education and empowerment of our bodies. We should not have to feel guilty or a burden in any way. If anything, we should see our periods as a gift from Allah (SWT), because that’s exactly what they are. Let’s refuse to surrender any longer to these social constructs that keep us suffering silently in pain. Let’s stand up for and protect this blessing that Allah (SWT) has bestowed upon us. Ramadan should not be a burden on anyone. This is a beautiful month where we should find peace, reflection, and renewal in – not worry about how our periods are a “problem.” Your period does not make you any less.