There is nothing quite like the hustle and bustle of Ramadan preparations in the Islamic community. Inside our places of worship is the dizzying commotion of planning the logistics of communal meals, nightly prayers, and special guest Quran reciters. In Muslim homes, families decorate, create menus, send invitations for iftar gatherings, and even make Eid preparations ahead of time. For individuals, much thought goes into how to approach Ramadan. The faithful pray to reach its arrival, making sure intentions are pure, relationships are mended, and schedules are changed to accommodate the fast and extra acts of worship.
At the heart of the Islamic community are the women, who not only prepare themselves but also the children under their care, who they hope to educate about the joy and blessings of the season. Mothers, and women in general, tend to get swept away in the exhausting Ramadan prep and are at greater risk of losing that enthusiasm once their “time of the month” rolls around.
Yes, even during the most anticipated month of the year, women are visited by that unwelcomed guest, their menstrual cycles. During a time when acts of worship like fasting and ritual prayers – things that Muslim women do not partake in while on their period – take center stage, it is normal to lose focus on the blessings of Ramadan. This is also the case for those women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, ill, or traveling, and cannot fast. While fasting days can be made up after Ramadan, the excitement is not the same as when it is shared with the general body of believers.
However, not all is lost when Ramadan fasting is impossible or paused temporarily. There are only three acts of worship women should not engage in while menstruating. Those are praying, fasting, and reading the Quran directly from/while touching the mushaf (or Arabic Quran). Rather than focus on the acts of worship that are out of the question, women can concentrate on things they can do, which are more in comparison.
Rewarding Practices besides Fasting
Here are seven ideas that women can implement during their menses to keep the Ramadan spirit alive and make it the most productive yet.
1. Increase dua.
When a woman’s period comes around, prayers are suspended, so it is easy to forget that it is still possible to pray in the sense of supplication. Raising one’s hands in supplication is a form of intimate prayer between the servant and the Creator. Although a woman cannot perform the ritual five daily prayers, voluntary prayers, and night prayers during the month of Ramadan, she can still make constant dua. In the Quran, Allah says:
“Your Lord has proclaimed, ‘Call upon Me, I will respond to you…’”
(Surah Al-Ghaafir, 40:60)
What is more, the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Supplication is the essence of worship.”
As the rest of her family participates in the congregational prayers, a menstruating woman or one who is experiencing postnatal bleeding can be supplicating to her Lord, asking for His mercy, forgiveness, and blessings. She, too, can wake up in the middle of the night and worship Allah along with the rest of the believers, making the most of this blessed time.
2. Spend time in dhikr and reflection.
Setting aside an area of the home where one can sit in contemplation and remembrance of Allah is a great way to feel spiritually inspired during the month of Ramadan. Choose a place that is clean, comfortable, and clutter-free. Only gather items that can aid in maintaining focus such as a prayer rug, cushions, prayer beads or counters, and Ramadan-themed decorations (but keep them to a minimum). Concentrate on remembering Allah and speaking words of praise. If it helps, keep a journal, write things that you are grateful for, and offer thanks to Allah for His bounties and blessings. This time of reflection will not only serve as an act of worship but also be therapeutic during that time of the month. Allah says in the Quran:
“Surely in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find comfort.”
(Surah Ar-Ra’d, 13:28)
3. Read the Quran in English.
During Ramadan, many Muslims read the Quran in Arabic, but fail to persevere in grasping its meaning. A woman who is unable to fast and read from the mushaf (or Arabic Quran) has the advantage of dedicating time to reading and reflecting on the meaning of the Quran in English, her native tongue or in another language other than Arabic. She may read to herself, to her family, or in a group.
A great initiative is joining or starting a Quran reading circle. There are many groups in which Muslims come together in person or online to read a translation of the Quran. Members take turns in order to improve their reading, encourage one another, and complete the Quran during the month of Ramadan. One example is MWI: Muslim Wholehearted Initiative’s Sister’s Virtual Daily Quran Reading circle. More information about this and their other programs are available at wholeheartedmuslim.com
Note: There are differences of opinion regarding if and how women can read and recite the Quran in Arabic. According to Islamqa.org, the majority of jurists say that a woman cannot read the Quran from a mushaf during her period until she is pure while some scholars say that it is permissible for her to recite the Quran. As for touching the Arabic mushaf, the majority opinion is that it is forbidden during any kind of state of impurity.1
In summary, women can recite the Quran without a mushaf and read from a translation, but they should refrain from touching the Arabic Quran. This includes the Arabic mushaf and even on an electronic device unless she can ensure not touching the actual verses to be on the safe side. Again, there are differences of opinion on this matter, so women are encouraged to read more on the subject or ask their local imam if they have any further inquiries.
4. Teach children.
Aside from reading on their own, women who are not fasting, can also read to their children, child relatives, or kids at their local Islamic community center. There are a variety of lessons that Muslim women can impart to the children in their care during Ramadan. They can choose excerpts from the translation of the Quran and provide a brief explanation or summary, read from the biography of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, share other prophet stories, talk about the virtues of Ramadan, and much more.
Consider conducting a reading circle with your children and dedicate this time to them so they can also benefit from the wealth of Islamic knowledge available. Volunteer during the nightly Taraweeh prayers and share some knowledge with the children of mothers who are praying. Nowadays, these activities do not even have to be done in person. Women can also use social media to contribute to Islamic education for learners of all ages. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whoever imparts knowledge will have the reward of whoever acted upon it, without detracting from the reward of one who acted.”
(Sunan Ibn Majah)
5. Give charity.
Ibn Abbas reported:
“The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, was the most generous of people and he was even more generous in Ramadan…”
Charity is a form of worship and it can take many forms in the Islamic context, from offering monetary aid to removing some harm. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Upon every one of your joints in the morning is charity due. Every glorification of Allah is charity. Every praise of Allah is charity. Every declaration of the oneness of Allah is charity. Every exaltation of Allah is charity. Enjoining good and forbidding evil is charity….”
According to another Prophetic tradition:
“…even a smile can be an act of charity.”
One way to easily give charity during Ramadan is by feeding those who are fasting, as well as the poor. A menstruating woman may seek the rewards of fasting by preparing and offering meals to her family and others. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whoever gives food for a fasting person to break his fast, he will have a reward like theirs, without that detracting from their reward in the slightest.”
6. Clean the home.
While “clean the house” is probably the last thing a woman on her menses wants to hear, maintaining a clean environment is an act of worship. The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Cleanliness is half of faith...”
Women can rack up on good deeds by cleaning their homes and washing, folding, and putting away laundry. During that time, they can listen to Quran recitation or a lecture, recite dhikr (remembrance of Allah), or watch an educational video about Islam. Tidying up the house will give one a sense of satisfaction that they are preparing their home for the worship of Allah. Surround yourself with Islamic reminders while completing chores, and you will feel the spirit of the Ramadan season all day long.
7. Call and visit relatives.
A great way to utilize free time during Ramadan is to check up on relatives and friends. Maintaining the ties of kinship and good relationships are regarded as important characteristics of the believers in Islam. Allah says in the Quran:
“Worship Allah, and do not associate with Him anything, and be good to parents and to kinsmen and orphans and the needy and the close neighbor and the distant neighbor and the companion at your side and the wayfarer…”
(Surah An-Nisa, 4:36)
Call family members or friends with whom you have not spoken in a while. Wish them a happy Ramadan if they celebrate and ask if they need anything. Visit anyone who is sick and send gifts if you can. Not only is this a good deed, but it also benefits the believer in this life.
Anas ibn Malik reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Whoever is pleased to have his provision expanded and his life span extended, let him keep good relations with his family.”
Last, but not least, please note that self-care is important. If a woman is tired, sick, on her menstrual period, pregnant, or on a journey, they are entitled to take the break that Allah gives them to rest and relax. Obeying Allah’s commandments – including his prohibitions – is a fundamental aspect of our faith. A Muslimah will thus be rewarded simply for abstaining from prayer and Ramadan fasting. Even though she may feel discouraged when her menstrual cycle arrives in the midst of the annual Ramadan festivities, her heart should be reassured that Allah has gifted her an opportunity to amass other good deeds.
Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish (hablamosislam.org). She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.