Editor’s note: As we rapidly approach the end of Ramadan, let’s take the lesson this article offers as battle-cry against the period-shamers from this moment into the following Ramadans to come, inshAllah!
While Muslims around the world scrambled to prepare for our Holy Month of Ramadan, I found myself casually scrolling Twitter, eager to catch up on the latest news and trends before I went on my self-induced social media fast for the month. Imagine my disgust when I came across a post of a popular Muslim “Sheikh” who basically informed Muslim women that during the month of Ramadan, we should not eat or drink where people can see us because we are broadcasting to others that we are on our periods.
His post made me laugh initially, mostly because I assumed he had to be joking, but as I scrolled through the comments of others agreeing with him, even going as far as to bash Muslim women, my stomach recoiled.
Why couldn’t women catch a break? Why did we have so many made up rules that we had to follow in order to make others comfortable?
If you aren’t aware, Muslims fast for 30 days during our month of Ramadan. Most women above the age of puberty get their periods every 28 days or so, depending on their cycles. When we are on our periods, Allah bestows his mercy upon us by excusing us from fasting and praying. This is especially a relief in Ramadan, where period cravings can get really bad because we aren’t allowed to eat or drink.
If our Lord granted us this mercy, who are these so-called “Sheikhs” to take it away and tell us that we couldn’t do it, or at the very least that we had to eat and drink where no one could see, as if a period was something to be ashamed of instead of, you know, normal?
Period-shaming is unfortunately still a thing in many Muslim communities, even outside of Ramadan. Although it is a basic bodily function that literally every woman goes through, some Muslims possess minimal knowledge about it. It’s almost like people pretend it will cease to exist if it’s not spoken about.
I live in the West, where we are a bit more open about things like sex, periods, and biology. Although it was not a common dinner discussion, my mother was very open to talking about it with her children, and it was not made a big deal in our family. What did we gain from this, I hear you ask? As far as I’m concerned, this openness ensured that we, as women, did not internalize the shame associated with a natural, biological function.
In retrospect, my friends that come from some Eastern cultures tell me that that the topic of menstruation is ignored, or sometimes even seen as something dirty. Many women kept it close to their chests, like a secret. Men, for the most part, had no basic knowledge on it, and schools didn’t teach it because it would make the students uncomfortable.
Let me tell you, periods are nothing to be ashamed of, no matter what anyone says. It’s a basic function that means our bodies are cleansing themselves. Without our periods, we couldn’t have children, and where would mankind be then?
Men and women should strive to know all they can about the human body. Women are going to have periods, and men will have mothers, sisters, wives, aunts, and daughters who will go through the same thing. It is important that we not make our periods something disgusting, especially since the Prophet (SAW) and the women of his time were always open about periods and sex and the body in general. We should never feel too shy to ask questions about our bodies, especially when it comes to something so natural.
Of course, we should always try to make things comfortable for our Muslim brothers and sisters, so I’m not saying go grab some McDonalds and go to town on their fries in front of your community. If we can, we should try our best to not eat in front of others who are fasting so that they don’t get distracted by the delicious aromas. But if you think I’m going to starve myself out of fear that Muslim brothers are going to know I’m on my period, you’ve got another thing coming.
You concentrate on your fasting. I’ll be here sipping my ice cold Sprite like my Lord gave me permission to.