by Zuneera Masood
First day of Ramadan and you are excited when you see a fellow Muslim. You nod and feel this mutual connection that “we're in this together” and “you're not the only one.” But then you notice a water bottle in their hand, or a coffee mug. And dare I say, they take a sip. You check the time to make sure you didn't miss iftaar. But then again, who are we kidding? There's no way because every Muslim knows the exact time of Maghrib every day of Ramadan. Then you make sure it really is Ramadan by texting your friends. “Man, hope I'm not fasting and it's not even Ramadan yet! I would've just made a voluntary fast and now I'll have to starve an extra day!”
After all that checking, you realize it really is Ramadan and it's only Dhuhr time so you are good. But that Muslim you just saw…shady character s/he must be. A'oodhubillah.
Did the thought ever cross your mind that that person could be suffering from an incurable disease? Aside from all the excuses that any Muslim could have (i.e. menstruating, nursing, post-birth, traveling, sick).
You don't know how much our sisters and brothers who have special needs suffer emotionally and psychologically during Ramadan. There are people who come up to us and say, “Boy, aren't you lucky!” But deep down inside, we are crying. We want to experience that spiritual high and that intensified God-consciousness that the fasting Muslims do.
Sisters and brothers who suffer in silence, whose condition is not visible to the masses like those sisters and brothers whose conditions are physically apparent, suffer even further from the stares and sighs of those that judge them.
Have you ever thought that while you may have the opportunity to enter Jannah through Bab ar-Rayyan, we have one less door to be able to enter into Jannah through? Thinking of it this way would make many people retract their “lucky you!” statements.
But then at least we have our night 'ibadaah right?
For some of our special needs sisters and brothers, even praying taraweeh or qiyam-ul-layl, or reciting Qur'an is not feasible. An act of standing that we take so much for granted, or even holding the mushaf is a major feat unattainable for so many. The act of salah and recitation of Qur'an is a daily, year-long challenge. However, Ramadan adds to that difficulty. The reminder that there is one more thing we cannot do is painful.
However, with all this, alhamdulilah for it. Having problems in the world give us the insight into appreciating what is good from what is bad. If everything was good, happy, and perfect, then we would never appreciate any of Allah's bounty He gives us every second of every day.
But most importantly, we have a problem of epidemic proportions within our community, and on a general societal level for that matter, where we feed off of the apparent faults of others for our own satisfaction. It's incredibly important for us as Muslims, as being nearly a 1/3 of the world's global population, to avoid perpetuating this issue of judging others without knowing the truth. The sisters and brothers that cannot afford to fast at the expense of their health already feel bad, they don't need you to make them feel worse or be that constant reminder of what they can't do. If Allah has made this their reality, why can't we accept it? Do we have such low iman that we don't realize the test s/he is facing is from Allah and Allah alone?
Let this month be a month of purification for our hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. Purify your hearts and minds to think in the positive alternative. If you see someone not fasting this month, immediately divert those negative thoughts to something positive. Give your sister or brother the benefit of the doubt.
Allah has forgiven them (in shaa Allah) and so should you.
For my special needs sisters and brothers, Allah has given everyone their own challenge when it comes to attaining closeness to Him. Just because we cannot fast does not mean there isn't any other form of ibaadah that Allah hasn't favored for us. Regardless of what you do, it will all be multiplied, in shaa Allah.
The Prophet said,
“Allah the Most High said, 'I am as My servant thinks I am. I am with him when he mentions Me. If he mentions Me to himself, I mention him to Myself; and if he mentions Me in an assembly, I mention him in an assembly great than it. If he draws near to Me a hands length, I draw near to him an arm's length. And if he comes to Me walking, I go to him at speed.” [Sahih Bukhari]
We have been raised to get caught up in the fear of Allah to the point it debilitates us in performing our acts of worship with pleasure. From “this is haraam” to “that is haraam,” everything just seems to be prohibited and Allah's Mercy is not something we remind ourselves of daily like we do other things. But Allah reminds us that He is as we think He is. The more positively we think of Allah, the better it will make us feel internally and the more our worship will feel as valid and as amazing as those who are fasting during this blessed month.
Keep your head up. If people judge you without knowing your circumstance, your reward is still good. Allah is the Most Just.