If you read my piece last year then you’ll know that I usually have slight anxiety in the lead up to Ramadan. The long hours of fasting isn’t the biggest difficulty for me – it’s usually trying to get in all the extras……that is, until I decided not to put too much pressure on myself.
My views towards religion and what it means for me have definitely been undergoing some transitions, something which I’m still exploring. However what I’ve started to understand is that for me, being a decent human being with good character is half the battle in being a good Muslim.
As it stands, I have some extra days to build myself up for Ramadan – I most likely won’t be fasting the first few and if you don’t understand why, let me blow your mind:
Muslim women are exempt from fasting while menstruating
Like many women from Muslim backgrounds, my mum did what she was taught before her and we were trained to be secretive about our periods. In the early years, my brother was told that I was simply unwell when I wasn’t fasting. Whilst it was slightly better than some of my friends who had to fake fast with the family, even getting up for the pre-dawn meal to keep up the act, it still led to many years of embarrassment at the thought of my brother or dad ever figuring out I was on my period.
Interestingly as my sister and I grew up, we became emboldened by our faith which taught us that menstruation was openly discussed back in ye old times. I stopped using cover stories at home and stopped caring who saw me grab a cheeky Costa during the month of Ramadan. Whilst I admit, my work knowing my menstrual schedule is something I could do without, I’m also not going to fast when I don’t have to.
Recently, I was forced to make a quick pit stop at the local supermarket for a friend who was in need of some sanitary pads. I took the opportunity to stock up on some
chocolate essentials and with everything bunged into our basket, we made our way to the checkout but not before bumping into my dad.
For those who have never met my dad, he is one of the most generous people you will ever encounter. That generosity usually means he’ll pay for everything including on this day, my basket of goodies – expertly transferring the contents into his trolley. I assumed my friend, whose not Pakistani, would be mortified along with my dad when he came across the jumbo packs of sanitary pads that I’d convinced her to get.
I urgently muttered in Punjabi trying to get my dad to drop the Always Night which his hand was now wrapped around. He looked at me and laughed before waving them for everyone to see exclaiming “I used to sell these”. My friend, assuming my dad thought they were mine, found this utterly hysterical (jokes on her – he knew).
It brought it home to me though that my dad has never made periods anything but normal in our household. If he knows I’m not fasting, he will usually want to make sure I’ve eaten something and growing up, he never expected us to put on a front of pretending we were unwell etc.
Interestingly the most disgust I’m ever met with is usually from men in the workplace who wonder why all of a sudden I’m not fasting and then receive an explanation. However all that look tells me is that menstruation is a topic Muslim women are not alone in trying to normalise.
If you’re on twitter then follow the hashtag #agahizarurihai created by young Pakistanis to raise awareness over menstrual hygiene!