Ramadan, the holy month where Muslims fast from dawn to sunset, is not just about fasting but of giving charity, abstaining from sexual intercourse during the day, and feeding the hungry. However, not all Muslims need to fast or pray. People who are sick, pregnant, breastfeeding, traveling, or have their period should do not need to fast but should try to make up their missed fasts as soon as possible before the next Ramadan. Though those prayers you miss when you have your period, you do not have to make up, which is the same for all of the menstrual cycles during the whole year.
But wait! Before you say this is oppressive, remember this is a blessing from God. I have not yet heard a Muslim woman complain when she does get a week off of fasting due to her period. It is seen as a welcomed break. God knows that when women have their period, it can be a very painful time as the woman becomes low on many minerals and nutrients in addition to menstrual cramps.
Muslims believe that, at anytime that a muslim women is not praying due to her menstrual cycle, meaning they do not pray the five obligatory salat prayers, they still get the reward as if they were praying. Women can still pray to God, what Muslims refer to as “making duaa,” any time they want. Duaa is nearly identical to the way Christians pray, simply just talking to God or asking Him for anything. Again, missing prayers due to a menstrual period is not to be seen as oppressive, but as a blessing equal to the normal daily prayers or salat.
Part of the reason why Muslim women do not pray or during this during their period is because they cannot perform wudu, a necessary quick cleansing of the body that is done before mandatory prayers. Anyone one who is bleeding, cannot perform prayers without having a proper wudu (this can mean men or women who may have a bad injury that keeps causing them to bleed). After the period has ended, as well as after anyone has had sexual intercourse, they must fully clean themselves through a process called ghusl where water must touch every part on your body before you can begin fasting and praying as normal. This signifies that the body is physically clean of any bodily fluids, as well as spiritually clean, so that she can now devote all the necessary attention to prayer and fasting rather than worrying about painful cramps or fainting spells that are entirely out of her control.
For the people thinking that it is easier because you get a week off. As I said, it is a welcomed break but know that it is much harder to fast by yourself outside of ramadan. In addition, after a few days of fasting, the body adjusts to the new fasting schedule, but when a monthly period comes, all of what the woman has gotten used to doing, disappears. Then, when she starts fasting again, she has to start all over with the hunger pains and headaches from coffee deprivation.
Just a quick note to the men reading this article, please do not ask women if they are praying and/or fasting. It is a very personal topic, and is also very uncomfortable to talk about. Personally, I do not want to be asked this question and know many other women do not to be asked this either. Some men might think that a woman is lucky because she gets a week or so off of fasting, but they do not take into consideration that she still has to make it up later.
To female Muslims who are sad if they cannot fast, God made it this way on purpose. If you are concerned, please know there are many things you can do to keep the spirit of the holy month alive. You can still go to the masjid, eat iftaar (breaking fast) with friends, make duaa, read Quran, etc. Remember, this time is a blessing in disguise, not a punishment.
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