Are You Fasting?

“Are you fasting?”

I hate that question. My friends in Riyadh used to ask each other that question all the time. The appropriate answer was, “Yes.”  An answer of, “No,” meant that the woman was menstruating or that she was sinning by not fasting. No one wanted to admit either of those two conditions.

Nevertheless, “Are you fasting?” was asked repeatedly, and I always said, “Yes.”

Many years ago in Riyadh, one of my close friends invited me to go with her to an iftar at a Saudi home. Both of us qualified to say, “No,” to The Question, and I asked her, “What shall we do? What shall we say? How can we go to an iftar when we are not fasting?”

“Pretend,” she said.

“Well, what about the prayer? Everyone prays Maghrib after breaking fast, so what shall we do?”

“Pretend,” she said again. “Just go through the motions without really praying.”

“Are you kidding? Isn’t that a sin?”

“I don’t know,” she said, “but what can we do? We are excused from fasting today, and we want to attend this gathering, but we don’t want the other ladies to look down their noses at us. Allah will forgive us.”

So we pretended, and I felt like a fraud, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the food and friendship of that rare night out on the town. I still say, “Yes,” to The Question, regardless of the correct answer, but I never again pretended anything beyond that.

About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions, and narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
This entry was posted in Islam, Life, Ramadan, Religion, Saudi Arabia. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Are You Fasting?

  1. Anybody obtuse enough to ask that question to a woman, deserves the consequential disturbing mental-imagery of the female bodily functions. But this is just an online comment from 2011 by a female who blames boobs for everything that is wrong in Society. So don’t mind us. (◑‿◐)

    May you have a blessed month, M, fasting or none.

  2. hebah1985 says:

    That’s crazy, why would women turn there noses down, just because someone has thier period? or I suppose they didn’t get periods.

  3. susanne430 says:

    you’d think women would know better than to ask this question

  4. Marahm says:

    You’d be surprised. Women did, indeed, ask this question often, and the only way I can understand it is that we were always segregated from men, and therefore our conversation sometimes embraced intimate bodily topics.

    Most of us were housewives and/or mothers, so our daily lives revolved around bodily functions. As a matter of fact, I rarely heard this question from colleagues in the hospital, only from friends in the community who did not work outside the home.

  5. Marahm says:

    Hning, I agree that boobs cause an inordinate degree of social disturbance.
    Too bad they don’t shrink upon menopause.

    Ramadan Kareem to you, too!

  6. Laylah says:

    Salaam Marahm hope all is well, I just visited your blog for the first time and I love it! I noticed how I can relate to so many of your experiences 🙂 I enjoy your writing and loved your blog!
    Regarding the topic, I remember the first time (and last up til now) I was invited to such a function and was asked am I fasting. I wasn’t, but not because of the reasons you mentioned but because I was breastfeeding..I was honest and without hesitation replied no. I should have known better! The room became silent and all eyes were on me..I felt embarrassed and guilty. I’m not sure I want to go to such gatherings anymore if I weren’t fasting!

  7. Marahm says:

    Ahlan wa Sahlan, Laylah, and thank you for commenting. I’m glad you understand about The Question; maybe this is a Riyadh phenomonon, as I haven’t encountered it elsewhere, and all three of my other commenters seemed unfamiliar with it.

    I’ve just discovered your blog, too, and I look forward to reading more of it. You’ve rekindled my enthusiasm for posting more frequently.

  8. I know exactly what you’re talking about! I’ve seen both sides of this particular coin. In one instance, my friends and I use this is way to arrange coffee dates and lunches during Ramadan if we happen to ‘overlap’ on our No days. But I’ve seen the other side with some of the older generation and certain cultures, were No days are seen as…. dirty? Impure? I don’t know, but unfavorable that’s for sure!

    Thanks for sharing =)

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