It is important for family members to create a more inclusive environment for those that cannot fast during Ramadhan. They must try to help those that cannot fast to not feel excluded and instead also have an enriched Ramadhan experience.
Ramadhan is the month where many of us are eager to fast and appreciate whatever provisions we have. It is where we focus on how we can give back and spiritually grow.
We are eager to fast to have the full-on Ramadhan experience where we not only cultivate our souls but also our bodies. We not only try to grow ourselves but also grow with other Muslims around us who are also fasting in order to have a more enriched Ramadhan.
There are, however, some who are unable to fast at all due to the health challenges that they face or frailness due to age. They are advised not to fast due to the toll it would have on their bodies, but many of them start to feel left out and excluded from the whole Ramadhan experience.
It is therefore important for family members to create a more inclusive environment for those that cannot fast during Ramadhan. They must try to help those that cannot fast to not feel excluded and instead also have an enriched Ramadhan experience.
There were times where I could not fast during Ramadhan due to my life with physical ‘disabilities.’ Initially, I easily felt excluded. However, there were ways in which my family made me feel like I was involved and actually taking part in the Ramadhan experience.
Here, I hope to share ways in which family members could foster a more inclusive Ramadhan:
1. The encouragement to have the intention to fast
I was unable to fast but my mother still encouraged me to have the intention to fast with the hope that Allah (SWT) would accept it. She explained how those that have to fast first had to have the intention to fast – Allah (SWT) rewards them according to their intention even before doing the act.
As the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said, “Verily, Allah recorded the good deeds and the evil deeds. Then He clarified how that [recording] should occur: whoever decided to do a good deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as a complete good deed. And if he decided to do it and actually did it, Allah records it with Him as ten good deeds up to seven hundred or up to many times over. If he decided to do an evil deed but he did not do it, Allah records it with Him as one complete good deed. If he decided to do it and he actually did it, Allah records it as one evil deed.” (Bukhari)
My mother therefore encouraged me to have the intention to fast and explained how Allah (SWT) might increase my reward due to me wanting to fast even though not being able to. It is Allah (SWT) who only knows the extent we will be rewarded, but the main focus should be on having pure intentions.
The focus was therefore not on the physical act of fasting but rather the spiritual act of fasting – I had to shift my mindset. I had to make sure that I did everything with pure intentions and make sure that I used my time wisely as if I was someone who was fasting.
I was thus made to mentally prepare myself with the plan and focus on how to grow and make good use of Ramadhan – for example, doing extra good deeds and spending extra time learning, especially since I could not fast.
2. Involvement during suhoor and iftar
I was not only encouraged to have the intention to fast but also attend the suhoor and iftar with my family. I was made to wake up and join my family in the morning as well as the evening. The act of joining my family to start and break the fast made me feel like I was part of the Ramadhan experience. It made me feel like I was fasting, especially after having made the intention to fast. It made me feel included and I especially felt involved when I helped prepare food and serve drinks.
3. Assigning leadership roles in family religious activities
I had the task to encourage my younger brothers to read the Qur’an, do nightly dhikr and share whatever I had learnt after listening to lectures. This all would be done in my room so I was not only made to feel included but also responsible. I was made to feel important and useful in their Ramadhan experience. This in return gave me a more fulfilled and enriched Ramadhan experience.
4. Encouragement of contributing to society
My parents did not only make me feel useful at home but also in society by encouraging me to give charity from my own pocket money.
Ramadhan makes us grateful for what we have and see how we could help those that may be going through trials of poverty. My parents explained to me that it was not necessary to actually fast for us to understand these lessons and values. Fasting can help us discover these values but there are still other ways to learn and understand.
We can still contribute and be involved; for example, I was invited to give talks abroad and my mother encouraged me to contribute to society in the form of classes within my community. By doing this, it meant I was able to give back by sharing what I know, and experience Ramadhan with those around me. I was part of someone’s Ramadhan experience while having them be part of mine, too.
These four ways of being involved I have mentioned demonstrates how it is possible to have an inclusive Ramadhan, despite not being able to fast. It shows how it is the responsibility of family members to include and encourage those that cannot fast so that they can find hope – to know they are not necessarily missing out on the Ramadhan experience because they are unable to fast. By encouraging this involvement, people who are unable to fast will still feel they are just as much Muslim as everyone else and not anything less. It will help them focus on striving to reach their maximum potential instead of causing them to feel left out for not being able to fast. Feeling useful, important and involved would therefore pave the way to a more inclusive, fulfilling, and enriched Ramadhan – not only for them but for those around them.
Sa’diyya Nesar lives a life with physical ‘disabilities’ and she writes articles, prose and poetry in the hope of uplifting souls into living a better tomorrow by helping them focus on their abilities. Read more from Sa’diyya on her blog and like her Facebook page for more writing updates: www.sadiyyanesar.tumblr.com
 A person is considered disabled due to dependency, but we are all in essence dependent on Allah (SWT) with different ranges of abilities and inabilities. There is no clear cut categorisation, which gives a sense of ambiguity as to what determines one to be ‘disabled.’