Periods & Ramadan: Let’s Talk About It

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.

“Aren’t You Hot In That?” Is Not A Question

As we approach the warmer months in the Northern Hemisphere, the rising temperatures seem to not only be making people sweat, but also judgmental of what others are wearing. Let me be more specific: these warmer days bring nice vibes, but also truly act as a burden for women.

Growing up I used to wear shirts with short sleeves and even capri pants here and there. As I became older and was more drawn to learning about the meanings behind the teachings in Islam, I made the personal decision to not wear clothes that revealed my arms or legs. It’s funny because out of the twelve months in a year, my modest fashion choices seem to be a real concern for others for about five of those months. As soon as the days start getting to 70°F and up in New York, as a woman, you’re expected to whip out your shorts and knee length dresses. There is nothing wrong with wearing shorts or dresses, but please, don’t try and make me feel like I should be too.

Getting comments such as, “Aren’t you hot in that!?” when I’m wearing a full length cardigan and boyfriend jeans, is extremely unnecessary. Why would you say that to someone anyway? It’s just awkward – how am I supposed to respond? Over the years I’ve noticed that people only relay these types of vapid statements to women and girls. You will never (or rarely) catch anyone saying anything of this nature to a guy. I’ve seen men in full suits when it’s 80°F outside, and absolutely no one questions them about it. It’s fine for them. They don’t need to show their skin. No one expects or has been trained to have entitlement over their bodies or their choices.

“There is nothing wrong with wearing shorts or dresses, but please, don’t try and make me feel like I should be too.”

I’ve thought about this concept a lot. It’s honestly not rocket science to understand. It’s easy to see how women and girls are hyper-sexualized to an insane degree. It starts young and develops and becomes a part of our psyche. The “fashion icons” we idealize and give great importance to in mainstream media, dictate how we perceive women in our everyday lives. We begin to expect all women to look and act a certain way. I will stress this again; there is nothing wrong with women who choose to wear shorts, dresses, or anything else for that matter. There is a real problem however, with how much freedom and agency we have over our own bodies. As soon as people see a woman who is wearing clothes that cover her entire body, it’s as if they see it as an invitation to scrutinize and question her to no end. We don’t have a choice anymore. I don’t want you to look at me. I don’t want you to look at my body. My body is mine, and I choose what to do with it. My personal decisions are mine and I don’t need to provide answers for anyone who really doesn’t know or care about me, but is only asking if I’m “so hot in all those clothes,” because they aren’t used to not seeing a woman’s flesh. You’ve been hypnotized to keep your mind within a tiny box. You primarily see women for their bodies. We are objects to the human eye, no different from automobiles at this point. Regardless of what I wear, I will be objectified and belittled down to what I’m wearing. So, I might as well wear what I want and not be succumbed to the pressure of wearing what will please the people. My purpose is far greater than pleasing people.

This also goes out to all of my sisters who wear the hijab every day. I can’t imagine the incessant nagging they go through during these months (let alone the entire year). This is also for women out there who simply don’t feel comfortable with showing off their body for whatever reason. You do not know what a person is going through or why a person chooses to live their life a certain way. By you exclaiming, “WOW! Aren’t you sweating with all of those clothes on?!” you’re impeding on someone’s personal choice. “Aren’t you hot in that?” is not a question. It is a social indication that if you are a woman who isn’t revealing her body, then you are an “other.” It’s a statement that highlights the ever so present, and undying patriarchal structures that keep us imprisoned in immobile mindsets. ‘Asking’ someone if they’re “hot in that” is not a question at all, but a firm reminder that women are not allowed to be in charge of their own bodies and their own choices.

Leave people the hell alone when it comes to what they wear, it literally does not matter. Why are people so offended by me not showing my skin? Also, newsflash, when it’s 90°F out, everyone is going to be hot. Whether you’re wearing a bikini or a burqa, heat is heat and the sun’s power does not let up just because you’re showing some more skin.

“Why are people so offended by me not showing my skin?”

I wear what I want to wear. I will continue to dress how I want based on my own personal decisions and beliefs. I wear what I want to wear and I do not have to give anyone an explanation about it. Ever.

Reflections: Is Hitting Women Permissible In Islam?

Knowledge is everything. When you are constantly seeking to gain knowledge and questioning everything, that is when you are truly utilizing the gift of thinking for yourself. When you don’t seek out knowledge, that is how ignorance manifests itself. Some of the main issues that people (both Muslims and non-Muslims) have about Islam stem from pure ignorance and utter lack of knowledge on a given subject. One of the most “debated” subjects in Islam is how people genuinely believe that hitting women in any form has a place within the religion. Astaghfirullah. Continue reading “Reflections: Is Hitting Women Permissible In Islam?”