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Humans of Ramadan: Humans Who Can’t Fast

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graphic by Kaighla Um Dayo

Humans of Ramadan

We all think it. -Are people who are sick or really old required to fast? It seems like an unreasonable request. -Well, it is.

And that is why those who are sick temporarily or chronically; the elderly and weak; women who are pregnant, having post-natal bleeding, nursing, or on their period; and people who are travelling are not required to fast (for some in this list, fasting is not allowed at all because it would be detrimental to their health).

But how do Muslims who cannot fast still take part in the holy month of Ramadan? Do they feel different not fasting? Do they miss it? Are they happy they don’t have to fast? Are they judged by those who do fast? Well, I wrangled up some Humans of Ramadan and asked them these very question and more. Here’s what some humans who can’t fast, had to say:

Julia Bernard

My name is Julia from the UK, 32 and a revert of 7 years. I am a mum to 2 boys, ages 4 and 1. […] I am pregnant with my 3rd child, in the first trimester [and unable to fast].

My son is 4 and he is now able to understand Islam and life a little bit more. So we are doing plenty of crafts, reading, making decorations, [and] Ramadan calender. He Julia Bernard quotealso helps me cook food for his dad’s iftar [the meal at sunset that breaks the fast].

We are also memorizing duas [supplications] too. I am drawing nearer to God by limiting all things that may distract me. My advice to others in my situation is to let go of the guilt [of not fasting]. Once we realise that there is more to fasting in Ramadan, it will feel less stressful and then we can make the most of such a blessed month.

Christina Hafiani

I am a 6th or 7th generation American and live in New Hampshire. I converted to Islam at the age of 16. So I’ve been Muslim now for almost 20 years. In January 2012, I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Between the loss of vision, chronic migraines, chronic fatigue, short term memory loss, muscle weakness, and muscle loss there has been a struggle to retain a sense of normalcy with a long list of medications and strict diet and exercise.

Because of this, I cannot fast without severe pain and fatigue. The first year I attempted to fast I was put into the hospital 2 times and had another MS flare-up which caused numbness in my left thigh. It took over a year to have a sense of balance again. So I have chosen not to fast for these health reasons.

Spiritually, it is hard to feel that happiness I felt when Ramadan came around. It’s Christina Hafiani quoteharder to remain vigilant and read more Qur’an. I find myself feeling like the odd ball out when I go to the mosque or to a friends house to break fast.

My husband who is a new Muslim has a hard time fasting on his own and I can only hope that he still feels that sense of love for Ramadan that I once had. I still try to pray more during Ramadan, I attempt to read the Qur’an from start to finish and gather with my sisters more often. […] But the excitement during Ramadan is no longer there now.

[…] I miss the social aspect of our sisters and brothers completing a hard goal together in unison. The first bite of the date after not tasting food all day and even the cool water. But I miss the feeling of accomplishment most of all. I cannot help but feel guilty during Ramadan for not fasting.

I understand that physically I shouldn’t, but in my heart I just want to partake and receive the benefits and rewards for doing so. On a very hot day, I’m thankful I can drink a glass of water when I need it and I don’t miss the pains of hunger. But my guilty conscious far outweighs these things.

Every year [Ramadan] is another chance to better ourselves however we can. It’s another chance to be closer to Allah. As hard as Ramadan can be physically, you never realize how important it is to strengthen our relationship with Allah until you lose that opportunity.

Samantha Barrie

I’m from Luton Bedfordshire, UK. I reverted to Islam 15 years ago, and I have a condition called Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Depending on the severity of the condition depends on what you can and can’t do […] I’m in a constant state of dehydration. Samantha Barrie Quote

I have been told by my doctor not to fast, as I can become very ill. […] I feel very different then most others during Ramadan. I feel upset that I can’t fast. I miss fasting. I felt closer to Allah when I was able to fast. I read extra in Ramadan not only the Quran but other Islamic literature and pray extra during Ramadan.

I wake up to cook and feed those in my family who fast. I then pray during the day. I tend not to go out as much due to needing to drink. So, I become more isolated. […] I have been told I’m not a good Muslim [because] I don’t fast. […] People don’t realise an illness can be invisible.

If you are Muslim and can’t fast, share your story in the comments. If you are a non-Muslim and have more questions about those who cannot fast, ask away in the comments below.

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11 thoughts on “Humans of Ramadan: Humans Who Can’t Fast

  1. I am a human of Ramadan who is not fasting…

    And the reason is that I am nursing… My baby is 8 months today, and he depends alot on my milk. When Ramadan approached, I was waiting anxiously to see if I will keep nursing or not in Ramadan. And Ramadan came without me weaning my baby. My baby has a history with milk and feeding! Since birth, I decided that I will exclusively breastfeed my son because this is better for him. One month before the end of my maternity leave, I started trying to give him bottle milk. And he refused! I kept trying to get him used to it for a whole month with no use. I had to go to work and leave it to my family to get him used to bottle milk. Until today, he drinks it only if I am not around. But if I am around, he tries his best to get me to breastfeed him.

    Now breastfeeding is a reason not to fast. So I decided that I will not fast this Ramadan, specially that we are fasting for relatively long hours, and in summer. Many people were surprised when I said I decided not to fast, and I saw a glimpse of blame in their eyes. But I know what I am doing. I am not in my first three months of post-delivery when I could make it up and get my milk to flow again if it decreased. Some people said “try to fast and see if the milk supply stays the same”. Helloooo! If it decreases I will only know after the damage has been done! And I am now 8 months after delivery so if my milk supply went down I will not be able to make up for that! And Allah subhanahu wa taala has told us in the Holy Quraan that breastfeeding is ideally for two years, not only 8 months! Yes, there are solid foods and bottle milk, but non of them is like mother’s milk.

    And no, it is not fun AT ALL not fasting! I am not happy for I am not fasting. I am missing a HUGE PART of the month’s spirituality for this reason. I am trying my best to make up. Every morning I renew my intention to serve my family and take care of my husband and my son for the sake of Allah. I try to make thiker, and read Quraan… But nothing is like fasting…

    May Allah always help us to do the right things and make them easy for us all, ameen!

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    1. MashaAllah, sister may Allah reward you for your struggle. Your intentions are amazing and I am sure you would rather fast but for your child has need of you. Thank you for sharing your situation here. I know that other breastfeeding mothers will find comfort in your words and knowing that they are not alone in their situation.
      May Allah make your son to grow to be strong and righteous and reward you greatly for caring for your family so well. Ameen.

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  2. Good to see that Muslims are writing on this topic in particular, because within Muslim communities there is a lot of discontent and disagreement on the “those who have the relaxation” to not fast rules and principles. I say this from my personal and very bitter experiences and find solace in this post. Great job amazing sisters keep it up 🙂

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  3. Asalam Alaykum sister, thanks for having shared these testimonies. Indeed, when Ramadhan is around for Muslims it is unconceivable that other Muslims don’t fast. This is probably because Ramadhan is associated with fasting and very often it is forgotten that there are situations which allow a Muslim not to fast. However many people forget that.

    I remember when I was in high school, a Muslim friend was about to eat something and she told me feeling ashamed “Sorry, I have to eat because of my disease.” For me it was normal for her to eat but by seeing how ashamed she felt, I realized that those who cannot fast already feel guilty and we should not increase their sense of shame and guilt by judging them.

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    1. Walaikum Asalam, sister. Exactly. And I hope that allowing them the space too speak about there experiences people will become more aware of their struggles and less judgmental. InshaAllah.

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  4. Reblogged this on Journal of a Muslima and commented:
    How do Muslims who cannot fast still take part in the holy month of Ramadan? Do they feel different not fasting? Do they miss it? Are they happy they don’t have to fast? Are they judged by those who do fast?

    Liked by 1 person

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