I have always found something incredible about being “with child” during the blessed month of Ramadhan. For me, it is the knowledge that whatever acts of worship I am doing for the pleasure of Allah (SWT), my unborn child is experiencing them with me; reciting the Qur’an, praying tahajjud or taraweeh, engaging in dhikr and even preparing iftar for the family all felt so much more rewarding whilst carrying my baby.
This sacred month also highlights Allah’s (SWT) immense mercy on women, by allowing us exemption from fasting. However, fasting or not, being pregnant in Ramadhan brings both joy and challenges. I spoke to four women who shared their experiences of Ramadhan with their bump.
Saba: I was in my second trimester and Ramadhan was here. I remember the extreme exhaustion I felt and had chosen not to fast. I visited a friend who was also pregnant, and I assumed she wouldn’t be fasting either. I remember asking for a glass of water and my friend’s mother exclaimed “Why aren’t you fasting?!” At first I was a bit confused by the question and didn’t really reply, so aunty just continued, “We all fasted when we were pregnant, back in Pakistan, in the heat, never missed one fast!” I just responded with a nervous “Did you?” She made me feel as though I was cutting corners and just being lazy and using pregnancy as my excuse. When I thought about it later, I probably should have said; “Well actually, my Lord has gifted us this provision. There is no hardship in my deen, and I am allowed to be excused from fasting, I am considering the well being of my child and myself”. Instead, that experience left me feeling embarrassed and questioning my decision. I never ate or drank in public again for the rest of that Ramadhan!
Tamanna: Living with in-laws meant having to fast during Ramadhan whilst pregnant. I didn’t think I could choose not to fast because everyone else was fasting around me. I also felt well enough, so I didn’t see any reason to miss any fasts. I soon changed my mind! Living with in-laws meant cooking iftar for a lot of people. This meant I had very little time for worship or rest. It was after the first few fasts that the extreme weakness kicked in, totally overwhelming me. I recall almost passing out whilst preparing iftar for the masses! After this, I decided not to fast and begged Allah (SWT) to excuse me and to make the pregnancy easy for me, enabling me to be able to continue with other acts of worship during this precious month. In reality, it was as though I was still fasting anyway because I’d have to sneak food into my room so others in the family wouldn’t notice that I wasn’t fasting – even though I should have been confident in the fact that Allah has given me this exemption and I shouldn’t have had to feel so secretive about it. I guess at the time I would have met with a lot of disapproval from my in-laws, so I decided to secretly hide stashes of food in my room for when hunger consumed me!
Nadia: I was halfway through my pregnancy, and it was a hot Ramadhan. I chose to fast because I felt fine and after discussing it with my doctor, I felt I wasn’t at any risk if I was to fast, and the baby would be fine too, insha Allah. I started keeping fasts on alternate days, so as not to burn myself out totally, as the days were long and I had three other children to keep me on my feet all day! Alhamdulillah, I felt fine on the days that I did fast. I made sure I rested plenty and had a healthy suhoor to keep me going in the day. On the days when I did not fast, I tried to keep the routine of waking for tahajjud, reciting more Qur’an and lots of nafl prayers. This helped me stay in the momentum of Ramadhan as it was important for me to stay connected with this amazing month of forgiveness and blessings. I didn’t want to feel I’d missed out on any barakah at all.
Rukhsana: My experience of pregnancy in Ramadhan was of mixed emotions. I felt honoured that Allah (SWT) had allowed me the option of not fasting in order to protect my unborn child and myself, but I also felt guilty. My husband was the only one fasting in our house as my mother in-law was unable to fast due to ill health. I’m not sure if it was the hormones, but I remember feeling slightly “left out” in this precious month, as though my husband was more connected with Allah (SWT) and was reaping the rewards of this month fully, whereas I had feelings of emptiness because I wasn’t able to share the joys of fasting. I think my inner dynamic was leaving me spiritually depleted and I really craved what everyone else was enjoying – the “spiritual high”.
“Allah intends for you ease and He does not intend for you hardship” (Surah Baqarah:185)
The fact that Allah (SWT), in His Infinite Mercy, has given women such an honour as to offer us the choice to fast or not whilst pregnant also places a responsibility on us to use our wisdom to make the best choice. In all cases, we should consult our doctor and discuss the effects of fasting on our baby and our own health. If a pregnant woman decides to fast then she should ensure she has plenty of rest in the day, especially when the days are long and hot. She should also eat the right foods for suhoor, which will equip her with ample energy throughout the day. Aside from the physical considerations, whether fasting or not, she must also be aware of her spiritual well-being as this can provide immense pleasure and fulfillment for the soul, something which surely impacts the well-being of the baby also. Ramadhan brings the chance for an intense connection with our Lord, one that we can achieve through both physical and spiritual acts of worship. How honoured is the childbearing mother who can impart this experience to her child before he or she is even born into this Dunya.
Shahin Vohra is mother of three young boys. She enjoys writing about and reflecting on issues that affect Muslim women.