Is Ramadan women friendly?
The month of Ramadan is going in full swing. Besides the long Taraweeh prayers and reciting the Qur’an at lengths, varieties of delicacies are being served every day in every house. Preparation of an elaborate dastarkhwaan for iftaars is a routine. Eating tasty foods and meticulously prepared dishes is a norm for almost all the Muslims around the globe. Nevertheless, this savouring of a variety of dishes on a regular basis during this month happens to entail some serious implications as well.
This month and the obligations and rewards it entails are pertinent to every single being, irrespective of their gender. This is not an attempt to spark an argument from a feministic standpoint. However, it is an attempt to lay bare some simple but immensely important facts. It is irrespective of gender in the sense that both, males and females (except if they happen to be excused due to their biological cycles), are obliged to observe complete fasting from dawn till dusk every day. Both of them, being morally responsible beings, desire to make the best of this month to aid their ultimate salvation. Women, as much as men, wish to seek the blessings of their Creator and yearn to seek closeness to Him through praying extended and well-poised salawaat al-taraweeh i.e. the night prayers. They too have their desiderative plans and thus they too set goals to fulfill the same. Ranging from completing the recitation of the Qur’an at least once to finishing some odd books during this favoured month. They, like their male counterparts, also wish to utilize this month and make the most out of it. Are these desires actualized for them? Very rarely, unfortunately. Why is so the case with them while men mostly do get to fulfill their goals and plans which they set for Ramadan? Why and how do they happen to be disadvantaged here? Where does the fault line lay?
A Parable and an ordeal.
Huda Khattab in her prominent work, “Bent Rib – A journey through women’s issues in Islam” mentions a parable about a millionaire who lived in Makkah. It will be totally on point to mention the same here.
This magnanimous gentleman, aiming to seek Allah’s blessings and express gratitude for all his bestowments, decided to open the gates of his house during the holy month of Ramadan to welcome anyone and everyone to break their fast there each evening. The news spread like wildfire, and people from all over Makkah came in multitudes to feast at this big man’s table. As the man was a millionaire so everyone was expecting to be served with varieties of dishes and delicacies. Nonetheless, as they arrived at his place, they were utterly shocked to see only bread, jam and some cheese on the tables. Notwithstanding their disappointment they moaned, “Is this all?”. All the guests couldn’t help but wonder as to where were the steaming mounds of rice, rich stews or any roasted chicken? Where was the huge feast they had all hoped for? They stood there dumbfounded.
To clear the air of disappointment and puzzlement, the man’s wife finally spoke up saying;
“Ramadan is the month of Worship. If I were to spend the whole month preparing huge and elaborate feasts, when would I get the chance to pray taraweeh and read the Qur’an?”
On hearing this, all the humming and buzzing died out and no one dared to ask a single question!
God knows better what intentions did that man and his wife had but if we look deeper into it, it clearly served a twofold purpose – one that of earning rewards and the other that of impressing a message on every man to take back home who had come to attend the feast. The message was clear – Ramadan is a precious month as much for the Muslim women as it is for the Muslim men.
This is aptly the reason why I introduced the nuance of gender into this argument. Our women are usually burdened with cumbersome domestic work during the normal months of the year which is largely due to the heedlessness of their male counterparts towards the quintessential teachings of Islam or due to a superficial and a partial emulation of the Prophet’s (SAW) example. The issues of domestic drudgery nevertheless tend to raise its ugly head in the month of Ramadan. Ranging from the preparation of elaborate iftaars for all the family members to cooking different types of dishes for suhoor, a kind of a cooking war breaks out in every house. For young women, the exertion caused by long hours of fasting and standing in the kitchen is further exacerbated when they are expected to mind the children as well. All in all, this burden of cooking vast variety of foods coupled with the responsibility of taking care of all the usual domestic chores undoubtedly takes a toll on our womenfolk. This exhausting routine, therefore, ends up destroying the spirit and essence of this month for them. They are hardly left with any energy to pray their obligatory prayers on time, leave aside observing long hours of qiyaam during the night. While most of their male counterparts complete the recitation of the entire Qur’an, they, on the hander hand, would be lucky even to finish some odd ajzaa. Some people might contend that they are rewarded for all the work they do for their families. Indeed, they are.
Nonetheless, can this sense of reward equal the sense of the spiritual satisfaction one gets from extended recitations of Qur’an, it’s revisions or long hours of qiyaam during the night? Indeed not. Thus, the question which arises out of this unfortunate ordeal of our mothers, sisters or the wives is one that of serious implications. Is Ramadan a sole luxury of the menfolk then? Nay, Ma’aadAllah. The obligations and blessings of this blessed month extend to the Muslim women as much as they are for the Muslim men. It’s our incapacity and insufficiency that we, being the “Qawwamoon” (i.e. maintainers of our homes), tend to, knowing or unknowingly, deprive them of these blessings. Almost half of this Ramadan is yet to pass. Isn’t it the time that we set right our misplaced priorities? High time it is!
What’s to be done?
If we as conscious Muslims take this issue lightly and fail to remedy it then we are definitely going to set many tongues wagging. From Libertarians to Feminists, all the so-called “defenders of humanity” will start pouncing on us and on our belief system. Therefore, this is high time we delve into this problem and seek to set it right. Many of us go to the gym and workout even while we are fasting. Then what prevents us from lifting and washing at least our own plates? If we can go out to play football or road-side cricket under the scorching heat of sun then it should, in no way, be a problem for us to prepare at least our own beds and clean our rooms. There is no sin in it if we prefer to eat delicious and elaborate foods, given extravagance is avoided. But in the course of catering to this ‘liking’, we will have to make sure that we shoulder our share of contribution. If we cannot cook; we can very well run errands to the marketplace. Each and every one of us can play an imperative role in providing a helping hand to our mothers, sisters or wives. Reviving the forgotten Sunnah of the Prophet SAW of lending a hand in the daily chores and tending to one’s own work, is inevitably needed to save the day for our women folk in particular and for us as a community in general. This will hopefully take some of the pressure off our women folk, thereby availing them with the opportunities to spend some august and serene time with their creator and his speech i.e. The Qur’an.
This predicament is widespread in our community and thus a timely insight into it is what is called for. There is a dire need for us to reclaim our roles of Qawwamoon and take charge of this precarious situation. Yesterday, with all its happenings, is gone, but the present is here with us and thus needs to be the centre of our concern. All the misdeeds of our past cannot be set right except by harbouring a profound regret over them and a craving to set right the ‘now’ that lies in front of us. Therefore, efforts must be made to make this Ramadan a better and a more spiritual one for our women folk – in a word, a women-friendlier one.
The author is a student of Political Science at Aligarh Muslim University, India and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Disclaimer: Views expressed are exclusively personal and do not necessarily reflect the position or editorial policy of Oracle Opinions.