This year marks five Holy Months of Ramadan I have experienced while living in the Middle East, though the very first one as a pregnant resident. And although I am not of the Muslim faith, I still abide by the social and religious rules that all residents – locals and expats alike – are asked to observe.
Rest assured, however, that pregnant and breastfeeding Muslim women are not obliged to fast if they deem themselves ill, weak or by fasting they will endanger their own life or that of their fetus or breastfed baby. Muslim women are required to fast during daylight hours if they consider their health strong enough to withstand fasting such that it will not to cause harm to fetus or baby. I – the pregnant non-Muslim woman – will not fast, but I will be discreet when sipping water and eating food: all done behind closed doors during the day.
Allah said: “The month of Ramadan in which the Qur’aan was revealed, is a guidance for mankind and clear proofs for the criterion between right and wrong. So whosoever of you sights the crescent for the month of Ramadan, he must fast that month.”
According to Islam, this ninth month of the lunar calendar, is when Allah made it obligatory to fast. During the month of Ramadan the gates of Paradise are opened and the gates of Hellfire are closed, and the rebellious devils are chained.
Here are some of the important lessons to be learnt from fasting:
1. Made Muslims more obedient to Allah, aiding in distancing themselves from sins;
2. Seeking nearness to Allah: increasing in kindness and in giving charity;
3. Acquiring patience: restrains the soul from eating, drinking, conjugal relations;
4. Cultivating good manners: abstaining not only from eating and drinking but also from ignorant, indecent , abusive speech;
5. Sensing Muslim unity: Islam lays great importance in bringing hearts together and encouraging collectiveness: fasting, praying & eating together and in the act of Hajj (Pilgrimage).
As for me, I continue to be led by the hunger and needs of the little Seahorse who is none the wiser as to where I reside, and whether its daylight hours or not. The little critter only wishes for nourishment and a bouncy belly in which to float. With that in mind, I merrily eat and drink in public after the call to prayers heralding Iftar, my new favourite addictions being pumpkin salad, thanks to Galleries Lafayette’s dab chefs. These guys know what a hungry pregnant woman needs!