The Holy month of Ramadan is an incredible time of year. It is truly a time to recharge your spiritual self. It is a time of Faith, family and friendships. Fasting provides an unmatchable spiritual experience. There is something so spiritual in giving up food and water; the things we believe we need to live; and put our lives, our health and wellbeing into the hands of Allah (swt). It’s about giving up control of those things and trust God fully to take care of you. It’s amazing! It’s conquering your worldly self to allow your inner spiritual self to be liberated.
Fasting is one of many forms of Ibadah during Ramadan. It is a significant part and one of the 5 Pillars of Islam but there are many brothers and sisters who do not (cannot) fast. Allah is his almighty wisdom and mercy has given us guidelines for who is able to fast and who is not. Yet, somehow in our human nature we feel we have the right to judge and criticize those who do not fast without actually know their reasons. In all honestly, we don't ’have the right to know their reasons. I believe there are 3 questions that should never ask someone who may not or is not fasting:
1. Are You Fasting?
Don’t ask this! Every Muslim in the world knows that during Ramadan fasting is obligatory. You can safely assume that most Muslims fast and those who don’t, do not need to be exposed by this ridiculous question. If you see it is obvious that someone may not be fasting for a reason such as pregnancy, you should still not ask. There is no need for this question, to ever be asked! Do not make things awkward for the other person feeling like they may be judged if the give the “wrong” answer.
2. Why Aren’t You Fasting?
Don’t ask a question you may not want the answer to! Faith and how we practice our faith is extremely personal. Really it’s none of your business why someone is not fasting. That is between them and Allah (swt). Not only are you invading their privacy with a question you have no right to know the answer to but also you could be putting them in an awkward position to tell you something they may not be ready or ever wanting to tell. Remember that there are an infinite number of reasons that someone may not fast during Ramadan. The reasons can range from a cold to menstruation, pregnancy or a more serious illness.
I found out just before Ramadan that I was pregnant with my son. Surely, I was not ready to tell anyone only a couple weeks into my pregnancy. Therefore I was pretending to fast for some time as I didn’t want anyone to ask and I be in a situation where I felt I had to give a reason for not fasting. What if someone was diagnosed with an illness such as cancer and was unable to fast. Would they want to tell every person they meet?
3. You Are So Lucky You Aren’t Fasting?
Am I? Am I really? Have you forgotten what it means to be able to fast? Being able to fast means that you are healthy! It means you are so healthy that you are able to stop nourishing your body for so many hours. It means your body is so healthy that you can exhaust it and starve it and still live! Being able to fast is not a burden, it is a blessing that so many people take for granted.
Most people who are not fasting, are not doing so because they simply do not want to fast. For the most part it is extenuating circumstances that dictate the ability to fast or not. Although the person may not be hungry, or thirsty or have headaches but they feel pain in a whole other way. It is an internal spiritual struggle knowing you “should” be fasting but can’t.
When I was pregnant or nursing my son and not fasting, I felt bad every time I ate something or drank something but it was Allah’s will that I give up the opportunity to fast for the sake of my unborn child or my young baby. It was what was best for him and it was my duty as his mother to sacrifice this chance of Ibadah for him.
By telling someone they are “lucky” for not fasting you instantly make them feel bad and guilty although it is their God given right. Allah (swt) has excused them from fasting with no guilt or shame, why wouldn’t you? Also, think carefully, if you knew why they weren’t fasting would you give up your ability to fast and take their place? If you knew someone was diabetic and injecting multiple times a day would you switch places? If you knew someone was a cancer patient and going through chemo would you take their place? If you knew someone had kidney or liver issues would you switch places?
Let us take fully enjoy the blessings that we are showered with each and every day. Let us use Ramadan as a time to reflect on those blessings, big and small. May Ramadan humble your heart, enlighten your mind and increase your Iman.