(This article was written during the month of Ramadan but is relevant to those unable to fast during the month of Dhul Hijjah. May Allah make it easy. Ameen)
From a young age, whenever I started my period during Ramadan I’d always feel relief – VACATION! A break from fasting!Then I’d be overcome by sheer guilt and a bewildering sense of failure. There were times where I couldn’t even hide my glee at starting my period and even my family noticed too –
“Look how happy you are because you don’t have to fast!” I remember my sister saying once.
Immediately, I would feel so ashamed. One time, I was listening to a podcast about Ramadan, and one of the speakers said she would get upset when her period started during this holy month. Great! More guilt.
Why didn’t I feel this sadness? Is there a deficiency in my imaan? Then the ultimate question: what is my intention?
My intention is not one of negligence. I am not relieved that I don’t have to pray or fast because I don’t like the month of Ramadan, rather I feel relief and appreciation for the dispensation. It is as simple as that. So no, there is not a deficiency in my Imaan in this sense. It took a while for me to realise this. Menstruation is by the will of God. I am giddy with excitement for Ramadan this year, knowing that the devils are chained and it’s just me and my Nafsa – face to face, battling it out, the truest, realest, rawest jihad. I look forward to the frantic rush at suhoor to drink as much water as possible, followed by the serenity of fajr salah. I love so much that my unpleasant breath is sweet to Allah. I feel a huge sense of gratitude and awe of God for enumerating my reward for each letter of Quran recited, and for the rewards multiplied for every other good deed, however small.
So this year, I am refusing to bring myself down for feeling repose when I start my period.
I will always feel the need to question my intention during menstruation every Ramadan and I plan to renew my intentions and supplicate: for sincerity, for refuge from laziness and ingratitude and for mental and physical strength and clarity to continue to perform good deeds. For good deeds are not just fasting and prayer. Ramadan does not stop for the menstruating woman.
In any case, I am thankful that I have regular, healthy periods. I could do without the PMS (increased irritability, heightened emotional and physical sensitivity, bloating, to name a few) and I definitely don’t enjoy the stomach cramps. But I enjoy listening to my body – giving her chocolate when she craves it, not feeling guilty for sleeping in, painting my nails in vibrant colors. I am thankful that God chose my body to function this way.
The infinite and incomparable mercy of God is illustrated to me during my menses: He allows us to stop praying, and He does not expect us make up the salah we missed – salah, which is obligatory to everyone even in sickness.
He allows us to leave fasting during Ramadan, to be made up at a later date. And knowing how physically, emotionally and mentally draining, exhausting and painful menstruation is, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ reassures us that our hardship is an expiation of our sins.
“Indeed, Allah is truly Al-Kareem”