by Fudia Muhammad
The Holy Month of Ramadan is a sacred month for nearly two billion Muslims throughout the Earth. In the Nation of Islam, we believe that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) received the entire revelation of the Holy Qur’an at once during the month of Ramadan; but revealed (shared) what He received over a period of 23 years as circumstances dictated certain aspects of guidance and criterion be offered as clear proof to direct the people of God in His way.
Ramadan is a time when Muslims not only sacrifice by fasting during the daylight hours, but we are most diligent with our prayers, our study of the Holy Qur’an, giving in charitable contributions, abstaining from quarreling and most importantly showing our gratitude to Allah (God) by exalting His greatness for having guided us to His straight path. We are given this prescription of fasting so that we may guard against evil – the evil of self and the wickedness of the world.
The Holy Qur’an reads, “Surely the men who submit and the women who submit, and the believing men and the believing women, and the truthful men and the truthful women, and the patient men and the patient women, and the humble men and the humble women, and the charitable men and the charitable women, and the fasting men and the fasting women, and the men who guard their chastity and the women who guard, and the men who remember Allah much and the women who remember – Allah has prepared for them forgiveness and a mighty reward” (33:35).
This particular scripture emphasizes the equity among the sexes. The requirement to discipline our lives in accordance with righteous principles and actions are imposed equally on both men and the women. Each receives Allah’s (God’s) forgiveness and a mighty reward if we maintain this standard. Fasting, is self-imposed discipline. Yes, it is a prescription given to us by Allah (God); but only the individual and Allah (God) knows if the fast is maintained. While others can see when we are NOT fasting, they do not necessarily know when we ARE fasting. The direct benefit of fasting is for the individual alone.
However, women who are in their childbearing years are given special considerations during the Month of Ramadan. A woman who is pregnant, nursing a baby, or menstruating should not participate in the physical fast – abstaining from food and drink during the daylight hours. As a general practice the dietary law of the followers of the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad is to eat one meal per day. However, in How to Eat to Live – Book II, The Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad writes, “Do not take fasts while you are breast-feeding an infant or even while you are pregnant. If you like, you may eat once a day while pregnant or breast-feeding your baby, but you are not forced to do so.”
It goes without saying that every woman is different and therefore nutritional needs will vary from woman to woman. However, if the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad says that women are NOT forced to eat one meal a day while pregnant or breast-feeding then he has relieved them of that burden of limiting themselves to one meal a day. If this burden is lifted, then certainly the requirement of abstaining from drinking (water, juices, etc.) during the daylight hours in the month of Ramadan is also lifted. Regarding fasting, the Holy Qur’an reads, “Allah desires ease for you, and He desires not hardship for you.”
Women can do more harm than good if they deny themselves nourishment when the body is calling for it. If a nursing mother does not stay hydrated and fasts beyond just one day, she will dramatically affect the quality and supply of her milk. In fact, it is beneficial for a nursing mother to consume water while she is in the act of breastfeeding. Pregnant mothers certainly should not abstain from drinking water – EVER! Dehydration during pregnancy could be extremely dangerous for the growing baby. There is a real risk of decreasing the amount of amniotic fluid, which can lead to a litany of potential birth defects or even preterm labor. During menstruation the body is losing a lot of fluid that must be replenished in order to maintain balance. If not, it could lead to anemia (low iron) in some women and extreme fatigue. There are some who maintain that the woman does not even get credit with Allah (God) for a fast taken during menstruation.
Again, regarding fasting the Holy Qur’an reads, “But whoever among you is sick or on a journey, (he shall fast) a (like) number of other days. And those who find it extremely hard may effect redemption by feeding a poor man” (2:184). Now, herein lies some disagreement amongst Muslims. There are those who maintain that a woman who is menstruating, pregnant or nursing fits this description (as do those who are very young or elderly) and therefore she must make-up the days that she does not fast by either making up the fast after Ramadan if her reason is menstruation. Or, for any of the three conditions, she may choose to feed the poor, give money to the needy or offer another charitable act in order to make-up for the fact that she was unable to physically fast.
Then, there are others that maintain that pregnancy and breastfeeding is not a sickness. Furthermore, a woman in this state does not have to make up the fast because in her present state she is already in the way of Allah (God) as she is performing the most sacred act one can perform which is to co-create with God when pregnant; and to provide nourishment for the maintenance of another life while nursing.
However, we should NEVER use pregnancy, breastfeeding or menstruation as an excuse to overindulge and completely lose our discipline. These conditions also do not restrict women from being kind, charitable, studious or prayerful. Mother Tynnetta Muhammad reminded the sisters that we pray with our mind not with our body; so, it is not true that a woman in either of these three conditions should not pray. A woman of God is ALWAYS prayerful because the remembrance of Allah (God) is the greatest force. However, we adjust how we pray – meaning, women who are menstruating, pregnant or nursing should not involve the body in prayer as is done when making our rak’ahs (body movements) during salat. These prayers are not acceptable to Allah (God) and it may also cause discomfort to the woman or offend others if performed in congregation.
The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan said, “God loves those who praise Him! Not that He is in “need” of our love, or our praise, but when we love Him, and praise Him, that is good for our own souls, and it shows our gratitude to Him. So, He loves those who praise Him, and He loves those who remember Him much. And the Qur’an says He would not love us were it not for our prayers, so it is The Remembrance of Allah that is The Greatest Force in restraining us from the doing of evil.”
May Allah (God) bless us all during this Holy Month of Ramadan – Ramadan Mubarak!
(Sister Fudia Muhammad is a member of Muhammad Mosque No. 64 in Austin, Texas. She is married to Student Minister Robert L. Muhammad and they have been blessed with four children. Sister Fudia holds a Master’s degree in Education – she is a writer, an educator and an advocate for God-centered child-rearing. https://www.givebirthtoagod.com/)