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Can disabled people break the rules of Ramadan?

Emma Emma | 14:11 UK time, Friday, 5 August 2011

The Islamic season of Ramadan is upon us. For observers, this means becoming more connected with the Qur'an and a feeling that your good deeds are multiplied. And as most people know, it means abstaining from all food and drink, including water, between sunrise and sunset. A challenge for anyone at any time of year.

Roshni Hosseinzadeh

Roshni Hosseinzadeh is a blind Muslim living in Scotland. She works with disabled members of the community in Glasgow and explains how she, other people with disabilities and carers are coping with the fast during this year's holy season.

"The timing of Ramadan is dependent on the moon. It begins ten days earlier every year. This year the fast starts at 2.30am and lasts until 10pm. If someone has a condition where to deny themselves food would be dangerous, they do not have to observe the fast, or can make up the days later on. I have had to do that in previous years due to a chronic migraine condition which wasn't under control."

The Islamic season of Ramadan is upon us. For observers, this means becoming more connected with the Qur'an and a feeling that your good deeds are multiplied. And as most people know, it means abstaining from all food and drink, including water, between sunrise and sunset. A challenge for anyone at any time of year.

Roshni Hosseinzadeh is a blind Muslim living in Scotland. She works with disabled members of the community in Glasgow and explains how she, other people with disabilities and carers are coping with the fast during this year's holy season.

"The timing of Ramadan is dependent on the moon. It begins ten days earlier every year. This year the fast starts at 2.30am and lasts until 10pm. If someone has a condition where to deny themselves food would be dangerous, they do not have to observe the fast, or can make up the days later on. I have had to do that in previous years due to a chronic migraine condition which wasn't under control."

There are other disability related situations where Roshni has found that it is considered reasonable for the fast to be broken, even temporarily.

"I am very involved with the Glasgow leg of a station called Radio Ramadhan. We broadcast every year during this season. Recently, listeners were invited to ring in with Muslim law related questions about fasting. The carer of a disabled child explained that she was truly exhausted and wondered whether she might be allowed to break fast. The experts advised that if you get to the point where to deny yourself food would be to the detriment of you or your child's health, this is a valid reason not to fast every day.

"Someone else called on behalf of their son, who has a learning disability. His intention is to keep fast but sometimes he forgets. Again, the experts said that his disability is part of his creation. You are not accountable for something that is out of your control. His fast would not be invalid, even if he forgot briefly and had a drink of water."

On her own blog, Roshni talks more about her personal experiences of Ramadan as a disabled person. She writes that even though the holy month usually means stepping away from the computer, as part of a general efort not to indulge in time wasting activities , for many blind Muslims the opposite applies because it is a very accessible way to read.

"I usually find I spend more time online during Ramadan than any other time of the year! This is because so few Islamic books are provided in Braille, audio etc.

"I also use the internet to access Radio Ramadhan broadcasts from around the world, and as I often carry out research and programme sourcing on behalf of Radio Ramadhan Glasgow, I end up with a lot of late nights online!"

For Roshni, Ramadan is about getting further connected with the Qur'an and with her Muslim community. She does some work for Kitaba, an organisation whose aim is to produce Islamic texts in alternative accesssible formats, but Ramadan also means spending a lot more time in the Mosque. This brings its own challenges.

"Disability is a massive stigma in the Muslim community, not least because the religion is made up of lots of different cultures. They've brought prejudices with them, which have trickled down to the younger people. So it can be difficult spending lots of extra time in the community. The other night, as we were getting plates of food, I was asked, 'do you want me to feed you?'"

On a positive note, Roshni believes that Ramadan affords her the perfect opportunity to take steps towards combating misunderstandings. She writes on her blog:

"during Ramadan, you have captive audiences in mosques, community centres and on Islamic TV Stations , so why not use this opportunity to indulge in some disability activism! I give talks, hold workshops and write for Islamic publications during Ramadan, about the importance of Equality, Choice, Dignity and control for disabled Muslims."

Ramadan is seen as a time for doing good and helping others. One week in and Roshni has already been at the receiving end of good deeds more than once.

"I live on my own and Iftar [the first meal after fasting] is happening quite late in the evening, so a lot of people have been bringing me food. Somebody also sat with me so that I could copy down the fasting timetable in Braille."

And after our conversation, the very connected Roshni Tweeted:

"Just had a Muslim taxi driver take me shopping, help with bags and take me home without charging me! Ramadhan spirit is a beauty to behold."

• Watch a video about Roshni's life as a white, blind, Scottish Muslim convert.

• From the Ouch! archives: Reasonable adjustments for Ramadan, by Sarvat Khan, a UK Muslim with MS.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

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    Emma, if the practicable observation of the devotional rituals of a religion and the awareness of only the periodic event of them among those who are not under any incumbency to participate in them are both described as 'upon us', then it is to draw a disrespectful equivalence between the the two of them and one not disqualified by the later addition of 'observers' or appeal to a naive literalism.

 

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