Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
So, we are coming up on Ramadan fast. Like, quite fast. As of posting we only have a month and some days left. For some of us that is pretty exciting, but for some of us (new reverts, first time fasters anyone?) that can be pretty daunting.
I remember my very first Ramadan, being on such a spiritual high, a productive kick at work, I seemed to be seeing everything through pink, sparkly glasses. But then, a week and a half or so in, disaster struck: the dreaded menstrual cycle.
(Men who are reading this can feel free to duck out at this point if this isn’t a topic that you care to know much about…it’s only going to get worse from here!)
Up until this month, I had been pretty lazy where my period was concerned, but this was different. It was Ramadan, and I didn’t want to lose my momentum in such a sacred month. As a new Muslimah, however, I was a bit confused as to what I could and could not do during this week.
I asked around some of my friends, and actually managed to come up with a plan that kept me spiritually connected and productive during the eight days that I couldn’t fast with everyone else, and today, I want to share some of those things that I did. In shaa Allah you can implement these things in your own life not only during the month of Ramadan, but all year round in order to keep yourself spiritually “plugged in” even when you can’t perform ritual prayer or fasting.
We all know that there are things we can’t do while on our monthly cycle, but I just wanted to make them clear-cut for anyone who is not sure. No fasting, no ritual, five times daily prayer, and no intercourse with your husband (hugging, holding hands, kissing, all that is just fine!). I have always found different answers as to whether a woman on her cycle is allowed to touch the mushaf (Arabic-only Qur’an in written book form), so I tend to stick with an electronic version such as on my e-reader or and English language version (or any other translation you read).
So these are the things you can’t do, and they are the big pillars we think of as the things that keep us connected to our religion throughout our daily lives. So how can we keep up this connection without these things?
Tasbeeh and Dhikr
Tasbeeh, or saying counted phrases of praise like subhanAllah, Allahu akbar, etc. and dhikr, general phrases and words of remembrance of Allah swt, is a great way to keep yourself connected while not actually able to pray.
To really keep yourself on-schedule with good habits, I would suggest sitting down as soon as you hear the athaan (or alarm clock for some!) for each prayer time and reciting the well-known tasbeeh: 33 times subhanAllah, 33 times alhamdulillah, and 34 times Allahu akbar. If you can make the effort to do this for each prayer, even waking up for fajr time, it will help you keep in the habit and not become lazy.
You can add whatever else you feel like to the basic tasbeeh, and especially in the morning and evening I would advise sitting down for some extra time to say the different phrases of remembrance for those times of day. Fortress of the Muslim is a handy little book to have around for these, and you can pick and choose whatever speaks to you from there.
Prayer—not the five times daily salah, but supplication, personal prayer, or dua to be made at any time—is one of the most powerful things we can do to stay connected to Allah swt even when we cannot perform the ritual prayer.
We naturally make these duas and supplications throughout the day, when we leave the home, when we begin to eat, and so on. But sitting down and actually taking the time to learn some Arabic duas from Fortress of the Muslim or even just taking a quiet minute to talk to Allah swt, thank Him and tell Him your needs, can do a lot to keep you on track. Again, take some time in the morning and evening and find a calm spot where you can do your tasbeeh and make your prayers.
This one might look out-of-place at first, but I promise, it makes sense!
Firstly, a bit of light exercise is supposed to be good for you when you are on your period, and helps in easing pain and getting rid of lethargy.
On the spiritual side though, taking time out of your day to go walk by yourself with your thoughts and marvel at Allah swt’s creation can be immensely beneficial. I don’t know about you, but if I go take a walk through the redwoods back in Santa Cruz and look at the huge trees all the way down to the little wild flowers popping up through the dirt, I can’t help but be awed by the beauty and complexity of what He has created. Here, if I go walk or sit by the ocean for a little bit with the sun on my face and the sand in my feet, I can’t help but feel connected to something so much larger than myself.
“It is Allah Who made for you the earth a dwelling place and the sky a canopy and formed you and perfected your forms and provided you with good things. That is Allah, your Lord, then blessed is Allah, Lord of the worlds.” Qur’an 40:64
As I mentioned before, I found it to be debatable whether or not a woman is allowed to read from the actual Arabic mushaf when on her cycle. Teachers that I respect have said yes, other scholars that I also respect have said no, so I prefer to be on the safe side.
When on my cycle, especially in the month of Ramadan, I continue to read from my English translation of the Qur’an. This keeps me connected to the meaning of the words, and actually is sometimes better for me than trying to stumble through the Arabic.
If I am trying to memorize, I will often keep working on whatever I was memorizing using the Qur’an app on my phone or e-reader, so that I am not working from the actual book. I do not recite Qur’an for purposed of worship while on my cycle, but it is beneficial to keep up my connection with Allah’s book as well as continue working on my memorization so that I do not forget.
If you are looking to connect with the Qur’an in Arabic during Ramadan, what I would advise is going to the mosque to listen in on the taraweeh (night-time) prayers. I used to do this during my first Ramadan and loved it, though you should make sure to not sit in the prayer space. Many mosques in the west have lobbies or courtyards where you can hear the prayers taking place, so this shouldn’t be too difficult!
Feeding the Fasting
And last, but not least…
“Whoever gives iftaar (food to break the fast) to one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without that detracting from the reward of the fasting person in the slightest.”
Narrated in Tirmidhi
It is a highly rewarded act to feed someone who is fasting, so if you are not able to fast yourself, why not help out those who are and earn the reward of it?
Cooking a little something for your family when they are tired from a day of fasting, hosting an iftaar party for friends, or even volunteering at the mosque to pass out the dates and milk are all great ways to foster love and friendship, alleviate the burden of those who are fasting, and earn the reward of it even if you are not able to fast yourself.
I hope I have been able to give you one or two new ideas to keep you connected to Allah swt not only during Ramadan when you can’t fast, but all through the year as you have to sit out on prayers and other worship for one week every month. Is there anything you would add to this list? Anything you have found really keeps you feeling spiritually productive and stops you from getting lazy? I love to hear from you as always =)