Why I’m not fasting this Ramazan

Published: June 7, 2016
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. As teenagers, we’d break fast with friends, then pray side by side with them at our youth group’s all night qiyam. PHOTO: PINTEREST

According to family legend, I first fasted—for a day—at the age of four.

I have no clear memory of this fast, although I do have the vague recollection of walking into the kitchen while my mom prepared iftar and her asking,

“If you’re fasting, why are you sucking on a lollipop?”

Ramazan in our house was a big deal. Ramazan meant we could—at least for a month—pretend we were adults. I insisted on fasting the entire month starting at the age of seven.  My parents agreed, but with three stipulations: I had to wake up for sehri, eat whatever was served during sehri (generally, a huge meal including rice, chicken curry, and daal) and take an afternoon nap. I can’t remember ever agreeing to family rules so readily and without complaint.

On the nights we didn’t go to the mosque or visit friends for iftar, my brothers and I would break fast with a collection of random food items we’d collected throughout the day—cold pizza from a pizza party our class won for selling the most magazine subscriptions, cookies from someone’s birthday party, a stale piece of cake. As teenagers, we’d break fast with friends, then pray side by side with them at our youth group’s all night qiyam. We’d eat suhoor at Denny’s or IHOP, and sleep in the next day, only to be awoken by our mom yelling,

What good is praying all night if you sleep through the day and miss the required prayers?”

Ramazan became more challenging as the years went on. It meant not drinking water during high school basketball practice and games, taking college and law school finals while dehydrated and sleep deprived, and eating by myself at work during long nights at the office.

But it also meant community when I moved away from home. During my seven years living in San Francisco, dozens of friends would cram into my tiny studio apartment to break fast, all of us away from our families. When I moved to Chicago as a new bride, I met most of my closest friends here during my first Ramazan. We were invited to an iftar almost every night, with people we’d only just met welcoming us newlyweds into their homes.

Over the years, I never missed a day of fasting, except for the few days each Ramazan I was on my period. (And even then, I pretended to fast, because I didn’t want everyone to know I was on my period.)

Then, last year, for the first time in almost thirty years, I didn’t fast. I was pregnant. At five months along, I was eight weeks past the date that everyone told me my morning sickness would disappear. I was still nauseated 24 hours a day, exacerbated both by eating and not eating. Weeks of this led me to find my sweet spot—I had to eat precisely every two hours to keep the nausea at bay.

And while I missed fasting, I didn’t feel bad. We weren’t just talking about my health; I had a baby to think about. I was able to fully experience Ramazan in other ways. I woke up for suhoor each morning with my husband, attended tarawih prayers, increased my Quran recitation, and hosted friends for iftar. Although I wasn’t fasting, I still felt the Ramazan spirit.

But this year is different. For the second year in a row, I’m not fasting—this time because I’m nursing. And although I’m literally nourishing my daughter with my own body, I feel guilty for not fasting. I’d chalk it up to mom guilt, but here’s the thing: I feel guilty because I’m relieved. Relieved that I don’t have to fast while the days are so long, while the weather is so hot. Relieved I don’t have to fast while working full-time, with an almost two-hour commute. Relieved I don’t have to fast while sleep deprived from the baby’s haphazard sleep schedule.

I shared my guilt with a friend whose twin babies are just a few months older than mine. She snapped me right out of it with a few choice words:

“You are literally denying God’s mercy.”

That’s when it hit me: Ramazan is not just a month for fasting. It’s a month of community, spirituality, charity and—paramount—mercy. God exempted many people from fasting—the elderly, the sick, and nursing mothers—as an act of mercy.

This Ramazan, it’s time to show myself mercy and let go of the guilt. Instead, I’ll focus my energy on creating a home where my daughter grows up to love Ramazan as much as I do, to raise the kind of daughter who can’t wait to fast. And when she does, I’ll be there at iftar holding the lollipop.

This post originally appeared here.

Nura Maznavi

Nura Maznavi

The author is a writer, attorney, and the editor of the groundbreaking anthologies "Love, InshAllah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women" and "Salaam, Love: American Muslim Men on Love, Sex & Intimacy." She tweets @LoveInshallah twitter.com/LoveInshAllah

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Ullo bata

    ummm…why are you telling us all this….isn’t fasting a private affair between you and your God?

    Sorry, but at least I am not concerned you fast or not !!!Recommend

  • Omer Masood Sadiq

    Given you bothered to log in and type a reply…there seems to be a lot of evidence that you ARE concerned…Recommend

  • wb

    You are not fasting for good reasons. But you should not fast for better reasons.

    Fasting, as you practice during Ramzan is absolutely unhealthy and meaningless. Why do you even call it fasting, when you FEAST twice a day? That absolutely makes sense. And not drinking water is silly. That is not good for anyone’s health. And then eating heavily early in teh day is devastating for your health.

    So, next year, grow some senses and not fast for all the best reasons.Recommend

  • Fawad khan

    Given that this showed up on fb feed many readers would just read it. That doesnt mean everyone is concerned Omar masood. Maybe u only read what concerns u before even reading the details in it. Miracle!

    Recommend

  • Nanna

    I had hoped to read a disgruntled Muslim’s rant about how fasting in scorching summers for as much as 20 hours a day is an impractical and futile attempt Recommend

  • Adnan

    Well, for you to contemplate and learn whatever you can.Recommend

  • Parvez

    That was a very nice article……….Fasting has become an elaborate ritual, a look I’m wearing my religion on my sleeve for the world to see and thus it looses its significance…..but then in Pakistan this is what has happened to religion in general.Recommend

  • Jagmohan Trivedi

    The writer Mrs.Maznavi has expressed her heart and rational mind that knowing
    importance of Ramazan,yet opted out due to her biological condition.Her focal
    points about Ramzan to maintain values of community,mercy,charity and consequently
    humanity at large,are worth consideration by religious zealots.Ramzan heralds
    peace and love for one and all.Recommend

  • Javed Ali

    Now she says she is not evne fasting and she is telling this to everyone.Recommend

  • W R

    Ditto, what was the point of all this very personal rambling. Unadulterated, grade A junk!Recommend

  • Amnah Khalid

    Mindless article what is the point?Esp when its understood, women are exempted while feeding a new born child and pregnant, its only relevant for western societies where it may apply but funny in Muslim countries. Its a blog post.Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    you will live in a big house in heavens.in the next life.Recommend

  • human

    awesome well writtenRecommend

  • wb

    How many square feet is this house in heaven? Does Holy Quran tells you that?Recommend

  • Sane

    You mean to say other not to fast in Ramazan? Surprising.Recommend

  • Miyagi Jr.

    Well I would still not let a 4 year old fast, that’s torture, I am not quite sure if God would want a 4 year old to go hungry all day long just for His pleasure, but from 7 years old, maybe fasts with a little break in the middle for a few years, just to get the hang of fasting. And when you see the kid coming out of puberty, then full fasts.

    And while we see additions in religion like Roza Kushai for minors, which is tantamount to child abuse in my opinion, The rest of the post was very informative.Recommend

  • Midhat

    Sorry, the Millions of people who fast forgot to take your advice. Why didn’t you enlighten us before?Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    thats a silly comment. He has just responded back to your confused desi liberal excuse of a blog post.Recommend

  • PJ

    Exactly. Maybe dazed and confused?
    Recommend

  • PJ

    So who made you read this?…Under duress? Your neighborhood mulla?Recommend

  • PJ

    Well, see, you hindus will never get it. Specially when there areRecommend

  • PJ

    Yes it will be a big houseRecommend

  • PJ

    Absolutely. While you hindus will be gnashing your teeth with envy.
    and jealousy. Pity.Recommend

  • Patwari

    This sermon coming from the Banarsi Mulla, is pathetic. Better you pay attention to your Saffron Modi who fasts too. And sat at a dinner in D.C,
    in a trance, a frump, like a country bumpkin, because he was fasting and his stomach was growling which could be heard two tables away.. Comprende?Recommend

  • wb

    Only the way Muslims fast is wrong. Because, it’s just delayed FEASTING. Others fast correctly.Recommend

  • wb

    So, we HIndus will also be in heaven, although we won’t have houses. Because, if we have to be envy, then we have to see and for us to see, we have to be in heaven? How can we see your big house in hell?

    Do you mean to say that my grand father is gnashing his teeth at your grandfather’s big house in heaven?

    Good to know that non-Muslims won’t go to hell. That means, we don’t have to convert to attain ultimate pleasure.Recommend

  • LS
  • Bibloo

    Lubna,…you need to chill out. Just chill it.Recommend

  • PJ

    Dead wrong. Yours will be watching all this, from Purgatory.
    The wrong side of River Styx.Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    Not only big house but a palace. I am not sure there would be men too for females.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    chill it? it what, bibloo? i guess comment from someone named bibloo is not bound to make sense or logic.Recommend

  • Just_ someone

    You’re such a fan boy… Recommend

  • Bibloo

    No need to get nasty.Recommend

  • liberal-lubna-fromLahore

    you just put your mind to use next timeRecommend

  • Omer Masood Sadiq

    Dear Mr Fawad Khan

    Thousand of posts pop up on our Facebook feed. We don’t reply to each and every one of them. Reason: we aren’t bothered nor concerned.
    However, when we do make the effort to jot down a response…it is because we bothered and were concerned (for whatever reason).
    This is not a miracle…Recommend