Assalamo-alaikum and hi to you all
My name is Diyanah knows as Dee to a lot of people. I am a 36-year-old British Pakistani. I suffer with PCOS and other health issues and use my experiences to support others.
Fasting with a chronic health condition
It has come to that time of the year again where Muslims around the world are getting ready or have started to fast. Ramadan is a blessed month for Muslim’s around the world to seek forgiveness, earn rewards of giving to charity, praying, iftar and so much more and for also to change yourselves for the better. Going in too Ramadan with a pure and clean heart.
So let us have a talk about observing Ramadan and living with a chronic illness, be it PCOS, depression, Chron’s, cancer etc and the hidden problems many women face.
All Muslims upon reaching puberty are obliged to fast giving the exemption to those that are ill, frail, women who are pregnant, lactating or even menstruating as well as travellers. So, for the days that fasts are missed by someone who cannot fast it is advised in Islam to feed the poor person for each day missed.
I will be, Inshallah, trying my best to fast but have been advised that it will be difficult and not to put that strain on my body, due to my chronic health issues. Allah has advised us that if fasting is harmful for us then we should not do it. Taking care of ourselves is also a part of being a Muslim. It’s advised in Islam if in skipping medication etc will hurt you then do not fast. So instead I will be providing to the poor but also be spending time self-reflecting, listening, and reading the Quran, reading my namaz when I can. Trying to improve myself as a Muslim.
But we have come here to talk about all things that are chronic, lets talk about a few issues that are close to my heart. I am no medical profession but as having and know people that have these illnesses. Dealing with a chronic illness is not easy and you or a family member or a loved one.
I suffer from PCOS, Functional Neurological Disorder (includes seizures, collapsing, severe headaches etc), Low BP, Mental Health issues. Most of my illness is hidden you cannot see it on the outside except for two of them. I can be judged very quickly. Most people see me as abled bodied think I should be able to fast normally. I am not the only person in this position, alot of women are. This is our hidden struggle.
Its important we realise that we are much more than our exterior and should not be so quick to judge. We do not know any one’s personal struggles.
When you aren’t able to fast during Ramadan, it can be difficult as you try to embrace everything around you but it doesn’t feel the same, you feel guilty and also can be guilt tripped by others into thinking that you are not a good Muslim but that is incorrect.
Remember you must go easy on yourself as its for the sake of your health.
Mental Health and Fasting
Now this is one that is not widely spoken about much in the Asian community, lets talk about this subject so mental health is just as important as other illness.
I have spoken to a few people about this already and they have all stated they will try to keep as many fasts as they can but its not always easy. Mental health is not just about taking medication and thinking it will go away. Mental health is much more than that. Many Muslims may cut themselves off from the community during this time as they are worried about societies judgements, being told they are bad Muslims or being guilt tripped into fasting.
In Islam, we have been taught not to judge one another. During this auspicious period we should be reaching out more and asking our community if they need help, do they need food, do they need someone to be with them (but due to Coronavirus I understand this is not possible) even a phone call or a video call can really help someone.
To those of you that know someone is suffering mental health issues and will need that support reach out to them this is time to truly help.
Pcos, Menstruation and fasting:
We have been told in Islam that while you are menstruating you are excused from keeping a fast and can you make this up later once Ramadan has finished.
Questions that are usually asked,
How do I fast when I am constantly bleeding so heavy?
I feel that you can still fast as long it is not affecting your health. I have come across many women who are concerned about heavy bleeding. One I was speaking with was concerned her heavy bleeding was causing anaemia and she was in consent pain. She felt that if she just had her womb removed that this would stop the bleeding and then we would be able to fast.
Our sisters should not feel they have to undertake invasive procedures just to be able to fast. However, many feel that cannot explain their constant and heavy bleeding, because there isn’t enough education for Asian communities around heavy menstrual bleeding. Most males still believe menstrual bleedings only last a few days, which is not always the case.
Should I stay away from my family during my cycle?
Please do not feel you have to shy away if you are on your period. I have heard too many times that our sisters feel the need to hide away and despite having heavy bleeding, only coming out to cook for other members of the family. Islam is about equality; I feel this is an opportunity for our brothers to support their sisters during this time. Also hiding the fact, you are on a period only perpetuates the problem, we need to be able to be open with our family about this. It is not a dirty problem, its nature and Allah’s will.
Also trying to fast whilst on a particularly heavy period will be too hard for the body because it needs to replace what it is losing.
What can we do about this?
We should be educating the male members of the household that women have periods and they cannot keep a fast for these days and that there is no shame in this, they should not be made to feel guilty, nor should it questioned as to how long they should be on their period for.. Male members need to understand that women can get quite ill while on a period and may need help.
I know that many members of the community will not always want to admit this problem exists, because they think this mindset will reflect badly on Islam, but this thinking is not Islamic
This is cultural attitudes to womens bodies and periods, and we deserve better than this, Ramadan is not simply about giving up food, praying and fasting, but it also about purifying your heart and supporting others. We shouldn’t have to hide and potentially make our condition worse.
I hope I have given you a personal insight to Ramadan and living with a chronic illness and some of the things I witness.
I wish you all Ramadan Mubarak and hope you all have a blessed month. Thank you for reading my thoughts and know what your Cysters/Sisters will be here if you need.
Ramadan Kareem everyone.
We spoke to Dr Nighat Arif about her thoughts on heavy menstrual bleeding and fasting, ” If a woman is bleeding, and has iron deficiency due to this bleeding, it is advisable that she does not fast, because that will put her at risk further. I can only imagine how difficult this patients periods must be for her to consider a hysterectomy , I would advise that she speak to her GP about this.“
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