Ramadan: The Menstrual Experience

Ramadan: The Menstrual Experience

Ramadan is a sacred time for Muslims all around the world. Celebrated during the ninth month during the Muslim calendar, It is the month in which it is believed that the Holy Qur'an was sent down from heaven "as a guidance for men and women.”

During this period, Muslims abstain from all food and water from dawn until sunset. Once there is no longer daylight the fast is broken with prayer and a meal. (Usually a date)

But what does fasting do to your cycle? 

People on their period are exempt from fasting (and prayer) and are instead required to make up their fasts before the next Ramadan. But what does this mean for the rest of the cycle?

Very few studies have been conducted on religious fasting's effects on menstruation but we can gain some insights from the analytic cross-sectional study by Yavangi M, Amirzargar MA, Amirzargar N and Dadashpour M in 2013. It was found that 11.3%, 30%, and 16.3% of participants had abnormal menstrual patterns three months before, during and three months after Ramadan, respectively. It was also concluded that participants who fast more than 15 days, menstrual period had significantly more abnormality than participants who fast less than 15 days. 

This makes sense because a lack of food and water should drastically affect your body, regardless if you’re menstruating or not. Depending on the severity of symptoms practitioners may experience ‘a general feeling of being unwell, lethargy, muscle cramps, dizziness, disorientation and even collapse or fainting.’ In this scenario the faster would be classified as sick and so is encouraged to break fast for their health. 

So if fasting affects your body (and your cycle) so much why do people fast at all?

“Fasting is a private act of worship bringing about nearness to God, as well as a form of spiritual discipline and a means to empathize with those less fortunate.” Fasting is not generally considered an enjoyable moment in time for Muslims. It is hard on the mind as well as the body. It is a test of faith and a demonstration of sincerity towards Allah. 

Does abstaining from fasting during your cycle mean you are less close to God?

No, in fact it was the Prophet Mohammod who clearly stated that ‘a woman in menstruation may neither pray nor fast.’ So long as the person fasts at a later date then there should be no feelings of guilt or fear.

However menstruation is not usually something those that are not experiencing it can see and therefore people may question why someone is not fasting. Culturally, women have been thought to hide the fact that they are menstruating and therefore able to eat and drink, being encouraged to eat and drink out of sight so that awkward conversations do not need to take place. Sameera Qureshi, an Islamic Psychology practitioner said it best in this BBC clip that parents tend to misunderstand the concept of modesty and act from a place of shame instead. She goes on to say that shame can impact you spiritually and comes from misunderstanding of Islamic practices. 

Therefore there should be no feeling of wrongdoing when a woman eats and drinks openly due to her cycle and plainly stating why if questioned (because unfortunately they are always questioned) is not shameful but just a sign of transparency and of faith. 

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