Muslim for a Month

I teach Social Studies in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area at a very diverse high school. In an attempt to better understand a significant portion of the student population, I have undertaken the idea to become "Muslim for a Month"; hence the title for this blog.

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Location: Fairfax County, VA, United States

Saturday, September 30, 2006

“That sounds interesting, I guess”

Well, I told my mother last night about what I have been doing – I would have told her earlier except my father will be undergoing major surgery in a little over a week so that was the topic of many conversations, and then they have been traveling on the West Coast, so it has been hard to get in touch with them to do more than say Hi, or I got home safely from my trip. Anyway, I told my mother last night. I would say that I was not surprised, but maybe disappointed, by her reaction or lack thereof. The title of this post is a quote from our conversation. She had some of the same questions that other people had, but parents just have a way of saying things sometimes that can rub us the wrong way. She wanted to know why, what my endeavor encompassed, and whether I was thinking of converting, but it was the phrasing that made me feel that she was less than supportive. Partly, this is my fault. I waited to tell her until it was already underway, additionally my mother has always been very involved in her church for my whole life (and I used to be as well), and I think that she wishes I would return to active participation in the Catholic Church. She wanted to know if there were aspects of Islam that really appealed to me, and I said somethings, yes, but somethings I believe that I disagree with (all this pending more knowledge to be gained on my part). I guess too that I had gotten my hopes up. I have gotten such positive responses from other people, and I was hoping for the same from her. But then I remind myself that I did not start this so that people would think that I was cool or innovative or more anything than anyone else. I started this for me, and I need to keep that at the forefront of my mind. In the end, maybe I am glad I waited to tell her, since maybe she would have talked me out of it if I had discussed it with her earlier.

I also got the feeling that she thought I was being hypocritical, since she expressed concern that I was boiling down the entire faith to several outward aspects (prayer, fasting, and hijab). I sincerely hope that I have not done that; I have been trying my best to be genuine and sincere and live as much as a Muslim as I know how (I learn more everyday), and believe that by the end of the month I will be doing a better job of it, but that was the point – to learn more by doing than I could have purely through study. For example, from my reading and discussions with friends believed that women were exempt (but could still participate) from fasting when they had their period, but learned just yesterday that fasting and prayer are prohibited during this time of the month. I may never have made that distinction had I not been actively trying to adhere to Muslim practices 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the month of Ramadan. This is another issue on which my opinion is divided. I completely understand that if Allah tells you not to pray or fast when you have your period, you take that gift and do not contradict Allah. On the other hand, it makes me feel as if something is wrong with me during my period, that I am unclean, and therefore unworthy of praising Allah or participating in Ramadan (I will have to make up the fast days later) just for experiencing something biological, natural that happens to a large portion of the population on a regular basis.

5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that Allah does not allow women to fast at these times, because he understands the emotional stress experienced, and does not want to overburden your body with additional stress from fasting. But Allah knows best.

6:48 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

Assalamualaikum! A friend sent me the link to your blog- a fascinating read! I commend you for your efforts to try and fully understand the muslim experience.

You sound rather disheartened by the news that Muslim women cannot pray & fast during their period. I'm not by any means a scholar, but my understanding is that there is nothing "wrong" or impure about a woman who is on her period. However, her body is temporarily in a less hygienic state (this would especially be true in historic times, or even in present day poorer communities, where the appropriate products are not available. Thus women are asked to refrain from the more formalized rituals of worship which require a state of both physical & mental purity, ie: the 5 obligatory prayers & fasting. However, they can ALWAYS engage in informal prayers (ie: asking for God's help, or expressing gratitude to God)or verbally recite the Quran.

Finally, the relief from fasting during their period is also an act of God's mercy. Many women suffer from cramps & discomfort. If fasting was not prohibited during this time, many would try to fast anyway, thinking this would please God. By prohibiting fasting during one's period, pregnancy, or illness; God is teaching us that even while learning to control our base desires, we must respect the ultimate physical limitations of our body.

Hope that helps!

12:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salaam,

It seems to be unfair but there is a logic behind it----a person's prayer isn't accepted if they are in an impure state, meaning if she is on her period or if he/she has had sexual intercourse. What purifies this person is by showering after the period and showering after sex. These are temporary circumstances. However, this does not mean that other forms of worship are not accepted. You will find people continuing worshipping God by remembering Him, by giving charity, by helping someone, by feeding someone, all the way down to a smile. That is worshipping God in many different ways, which shows how Islam is a life in that it entails all aspects of life and every action is taken into account.

Hope that helped!

12:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a little late as I just came across your blog, but I really hope you read this - when a woman is menstruating, she is not seen as unclean or unpure - the reasons why she may not pray or fast may be difficult to comprehend, but inshaAllah (God willing) I will try my best to explain how I understand things. I watch my husband go to the masjid for every prayer, and especially when it is fajr time, I say alhamdulillah for attaining the same reward from the comfort of my own home, and then snuggle back into bed! lol

Not being able to pray for a week or so for me is like a break from routine - it gives me time to reflect and really appreciate the gift of salah and you really miss being able to pray when you can't - as soon as you are 'clean' again, your faith is renewed. Prayer is something that you are excused from, however, when you miss a fast during Ramadhan, you must make it up afterwards, and inshaAllah you achieve the same reward.

Hope the above helped to clear up any confusion you felt.

Peace and blessings x

8:07 PM  
Blogger sol said...

salam alaikum!

it happens that eight years ago, i conducted the same experiment during the month of ramadhan. it was with the intention that if i can go through ramadhan and covering myself then maybe doing the rest of the prescriptions of Islam would be easier... only to find out that it was so easy that after a few days it became second nature!

welcome to the muslim universe! i hope you will find that your questions will be answered not just by other people but by the guide that exists within your own self.

everything that is prescribed in Islam hs a reason... covering is for your own self and not for others... sexual segregation is for your own sake and not for anyone else. so is fasting and prayer... i hope you will experience islam as a journey within that is made easier by some external practices.

as for the pause in fasting during menstruation, i had tried defying this, too... i learned that menstruation stops when you fast. it is as simple as that. As for pause in prayer during menstruation, I had defied this, too... only to find out that bleeding in menstruation increases appreciably when you do the prayers. there are simple reasons for the tings we do and we do no do. I hope Allah, who knows all, will open that also for you.

A blessed Ramadhan, a blessed Eid to you, sister!

9:56 AM  

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