Should I or Shouldn’t I: Confusions about Fasting while Breastfeeding

I am in that phase of my life where I am exclusively breastfeeding, I have a three-month-old baby, and it’s Ramadan. This is that elusive phase where I can get away with not fasting. The question remains: should I? Considering that I have been blessed to fast all my adult life, and part of my childhood too, I am reflecting on what the past Ramadans have been for me, in order to decide which way to choose this year.

Spirituality

Ramadan is about how much closer to Allah we get during this month. It is primarily about stocking up on our blessings in the holy month. So how have I usually fared during Ramadan on the spiritual front over the past years?

The truth is, I am spiritual throughout the year: I pray, and I make sure I am connected to the Almighty with my daily prayers. I read spiritual books that keep me grounded. So does Ramadan refresh or amp me up? My answer would be I definitely do more Salah, with my attempt to sneak in Sunnah prayers and pray Tarawih. But I am also more exhausted than other months, trying to carry on a normal work life, deprived of food and sleep. So maybe I am not totally energized. And if I believe in the motto that “Work is Worship,” my worship is affected, because I usually can’t think well enough when hungry. There is this sense of having done what’s right, but then of course it’s obligatory; do I have a choice?

Self-Control

Essentially, Ramadan is supposed to purify your character.  You don’t fight wars during Ramadan; people don’t lie during Ramadan (at least in theory). There is also a tradition to severely cut down on entertainment this month, with many people choosing not to watch TV or go to the movies.

To be frank, we as a family never switched off the TV during Ramadan. Let me confess that I have broken my fast inside a movie theatre more than once. And the part that really bothers me when I do it is not the feeling of guilt but that praying Maghrib gets a little delayed. I have not considered movies or TV haram; there’s ton of great stuff out there. So if you are doing it throughout the year, and are planning to jump right back into it after Ramadan, it doesn’t make any sense to me, to stop watching only this particular month.

Ramadan is also said to be a great time to build new practices, break the bad ones, like addictions perhaps. However, I don’t have any addictions, and I have not in the past had any major positive behavioral change in the month of Ramadan in particular. Usually Ramadan is a time I have to take a break from big lifestyle alterations, because again, I am exhausted and my willpower is usually dwindling under the pressure of a growling stomach.

Food, and the apparent control over food

I have always been trying to lose weight. Ramadan means staying away from food, so that should ideally help with weight loss. Right? Wrong. Very wrong.

All through the year, I am on and off a strict diet. But there is definitely this one month in the year that I cannot follow any kind of regime. Anyone who has ever lost weight knows that we shouldn’t let ourselves get too hungry, lest we binge on our next meal. So starving for 12 hours or more is not a way to restrict food intake and lose weight, at least not for me. Because by the time the sun sets, I am dreaming up a storm of junk food, food I haven’t tasted in ages.  Living where I live, and being blessed with financial means, I usually GET the food I crave for, and my reasoning and self-control is TOTALLY out of the window. By the end of Ramadan, I put on a good amount of weight, and am filled with guilt.

Exercise

It’s everyone’s New Year Resolution: that they will start exercising. Ramadan is for me the month of the year I have never exercised. It’s unusual for me to go a complete month without exercising, EXCEPT during the holy month. So I usually lose the stamina I have developed, and have to start from scratch. All that exercising after Suhoor or after Iftaar doesn’t work for me. So that’s that.

Did I fast while Pregnant?

I did – it’s just that I didn’t know I was pregnant. What was the best part about it? That I got all 30 days of fasting, plus the Eid prayer, which is something many women do not get to do for a very long time, something I had never gotten to do in my life. Now that I am exclusively breastfeeding, I can still (hope to) hit that elusive 30-day mark.

To summarise: how am I doing Ramadan?

Ramadan messes up my sleep, messes up my diet/exercise routine, and affects my work, along with any work-related studying that I plan to do (which don’t work well with a growling stomach). I do more Salahs and read more Quran, but I do not necessarily have spiritual epiphanies during Ramadan.

So this time around, probably the only time that I can CHOOSE whether or not to fast, what do I want to choose?

I choose to fast, praying that God gives my body the strength to do it, while also being able to provide for my baby, Insha Allah.

Because I have fasted all my adult life, and would feel totally excluded if I didn’t. Everyone around me will understand if I skip. My aunt, mother and in-laws have already assumed that I won’t be fasting this time around. But Ramadan is a community thing; it’s something we Muslims do together, and the feeling of not being hungry when everyone else around is, is something I can’t imagine as of now.  And I am absolutely proud of this tradition, the tradition where even Muslims who aren’t very observant the rest of year participate wholeheartedly. Because I am blessed to be in India where the fasting hours are manageable. And because even though I may not have broken an addiction or inculcated good habits during Ramadan, I fast for Allah, I pray for Him. It reminds me that anything I do I need to do for Him, because He has asked me to. And if pleasing God is my ultimate goal in all my activities, I know life would be a whole lot easier.

For more on MMW’s Ramadan series, and to read the rest of this year’s Ramadan posts, click here.


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