Ramadan and Crohn’s Disease
Ramadan Mubarak to all! For those unfamiliar, Ramadan is celebrated during the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar (April). Muslims believe that this is the time when the Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, and therefore they engage in various religious practices to deepen their faith. The most common practice is fasting, where individuals refrain from eating, drinking, and certain habits from dawn to dusk. Fasting serves as a reminder to appreciate what is often taken for granted and to empathize with those who experience hunger daily. While it has spiritual and health benefits, it can pose challenges for individuals like myself who battle Crohn's disease.
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Living with Crohn's disease means constantly navigating dietary restrictions and health risks, such as anemia, osteoporosis, and rapid weight loss. For nearly a decade, fasting, an important aspect of my spiritual life, has been off-limits. The health complications it exacerbates are simply too severe. However, within the tenets of Islam, there is understanding and allowance for those who cannot fast due to serious illness.
Initially, my inability to participate in fasting during Ramadan was emotionally taxing. This holy month fosters community and togetherness, with Muslims engaging in evening gatherings and late-night meals, staying up until dawn. Being unable to join in these celebrations amplified feelings of isolation and fear of missing out.
Food triggers related to my Crohn's disease meant that even simple indulgences could result in days confined to bed. To avoid this, I often isolated myself, which only deepened the loneliness. This period also coincided with a personal struggle with my faith, further complicating my relationship with Ramadan. For years, the month passed without the significance it once held for me, highlighting the complex interplay between chronic illness and religious practices.
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However, something changed one year. I realized that I wanted to focus on improving both my spiritual and physical well-being. One verse from the Quran resonated with me: Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear. (Surah Al-Baqarah, 2:286) As I reconnected with Islam, I remembered that Ramadan encompasses much more than just fasting. Praying, engaging in community service, giving charity, and reading the Quran daily are equally important, and I strive to incorporate them into my life outside of Ramadan as well. Additionally, I have discovered Islamic podcasts and enjoy watching Arab shows on Netflix, not because they are mandatory, but simply for entertainment purposes!
Since then, I have found peace in how I observe the holy month. While I am not perfect in my faith, I am much happier and healthier than when I stopped practicing. For fellow Muslims with Crohn's or other health issues who may struggle as Ramadan approaches, my advice is to prioritize your current health. Take care of yourself by eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, connecting with loved ones, contributing to the community, and engaging in activities that bring you joy. Remember that Allah is compassionate and kind, and you should extend that compassion and kindness to yourself.