Project Advisor(s)

Dr. Cyrus Zargar

Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Disciplines

Medicine and Health | Near and Middle Eastern Studies | Reproductive and Urinary Physiology

Description, Abstract, or Artist's Statement

Fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is one of the five pillars of Islam and is fard (obligatory) for all Muslims physically and mentally capable of doing so. In the Qur’an, it is made abundantly clear that religion and its acts of worship are not meant to pose undue difficulty or hardship (Qur’an 22:78, 5:6, 2:185). My paper explores the Islamic definitions for “unnecessary difficulty” and “physically capable” specifically in regards to pregnant women. At what point does fasting incur significant, if any, damage to the fetus that it should prevent the mother from participating in Ramadan? When does an act of worship cause “unnecessary difficulty”? By examining verses from the Qur’an and highly regarded hadiths, as well as commentaries from Islamic scholars, I explore the problem of fasting for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the context of Islamic bioethics. The solution to this problem also involves scientific research regarding the physiological effects of fasting on the human body, in terms of both basic human physiology as well as fetal physiology. The true complexity of this question does not lie in absolute “yes or no” answers, but rather in the gray realm of possibility; one must ask, if there is even a possibility of harm, should a mother fast? It is this ambiguity that requires elucidation from both physiological and Islamic bioethical perspectives. Essentially, the solution comes down to a handful of issues such as the definition of harm, the actual harm, and prioritizing prima facie obligations.

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Ramadan & Pregnancy

Fasting during Ramadan, the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, is one of the five pillars of Islam and is fard (obligatory) for all Muslims physically and mentally capable of doing so. In the Qur’an, it is made abundantly clear that religion and its acts of worship are not meant to pose undue difficulty or hardship (Qur’an 22:78, 5:6, 2:185). My paper explores the Islamic definitions for “unnecessary difficulty” and “physically capable” specifically in regards to pregnant women. At what point does fasting incur significant, if any, damage to the fetus that it should prevent the mother from participating in Ramadan? When does an act of worship cause “unnecessary difficulty”? By examining verses from the Qur’an and highly regarded hadiths, as well as commentaries from Islamic scholars, I explore the problem of fasting for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the context of Islamic bioethics. The solution to this problem also involves scientific research regarding the physiological effects of fasting on the human body, in terms of both basic human physiology as well as fetal physiology. The true complexity of this question does not lie in absolute “yes or no” answers, but rather in the gray realm of possibility; one must ask, if there is even a possibility of harm, should a mother fast? It is this ambiguity that requires elucidation from both physiological and Islamic bioethical perspectives. Essentially, the solution comes down to a handful of issues such as the definition of harm, the actual harm, and prioritizing prima facie obligations.