Ramazan and Breastfeeding

Ramazan, the month of fasting, is starting or has already started based on where you live and who you believe. Since Amber is breastfeeding Michelle nowadays, what better topic to discuss for Ramazan than pregnant and breastfeeding moms?

Let’s start with some amusement from an Islam-Online chat.

Question: My question is : “Is it allowed for a woman to fast while she is breastfeeding”?

Answer: […] To the best of our knowledge, the fuqaha have agreed that breast feeding does not invalidate a fast. It is permissible to breast feed while fasting. On a counseling note, we would like to remind our sisters that breast feeding can be very exhausting on one’s system if one has not eaten well during the suhur. Some babies require being breast fed several times a day and this could be even more tiring for the mother. So if one intends to fast and breast feed, it is highly recommended to not skip the suhur. Finally, always check with your medical doctor regarding this issue because your particular case might warrant not fasting if your body is unable to withstand the burden of fasting and breast feeding.

Let me repeat a part of the answer so I can laugh some more.

Some babies require being breast fed several times a day and this could be even more tiring for the mother.

You don’t say!

So what is the ruling of Muslim scholars on whether breastfeeding women should fast or not? Here is Moiz Amjad.

[W]hether a feeding mother should fast or not is, basically, a decision regarding the fitness of the woman for fasting. If she feels and is declared to be fit for fasting, she may decide to do so. On the contrary, if she feels weak and is advised to refrain from fasting during these days, then the Shari`ah allows her to miss fasting, during the month of Ramadhan and then complete the number of missed fasts, when she is fit to do so.

Islam Online has a similar position.

As regards a pregnant woman or a suckling mother, if she is worried lest fasting should harm her, the majority of jurists are of the view that she is allowed not to fast, provided that she makes up for the fast-days she missed.

[…] Though jurists have unanimously agreed that a pregnant or a suckling woman who apprehends harms to her embryo or her new-born child is allowed to abstain from fasting, they have disagreed as to whether she must make up for the fast days she missed later, or feed one poor person for each day she missed or both. Ibn `Umar and Ibn `Abbas maintain that she is to feed poor people equal in number to the fast days she missed. The majority of scholars are of the view that she must make up for the fast days she missed. Others yet hold that she is to do both. It seems to me that only feeding the poor is enough on its own for a woman who is constantly either pregnant or suckling, so that she has not got an opportunity to make up for the fast days she missed. So it may be the case that a woman is pregnant this year and a suckling mother the next and pregnant again the following year, and so on. She is therefore unable to make up for the fast days on which she refrained from fasting. So if she is commanded to make up for those days, she will have to fast for several years incessantly, which is definitely going to be difficult, and Allah does not want His servants to suffer hardships.

The strict Salafi Islam Q&A puts it a bit more strictly as expected.

With regard to breastfeeding mothers – and also pregnant women – two scenarios may apply:

  1. If the woman is not affected by fasting, and fasting is not too difficult for her, and she does not fear for her child, then she is obliged to fast, and it is not permissible for her not to fast.
  2. If the woman fears for herself or her child because of fasting, and fasting is difficult for her, then she is allowed not to fast, but she has to make up the days that she does not fast.

It seems that a majority of scholars allow a breastfeeding woman to fast or not fast based on whether it’s hard on the child or the woman or not. My guess is that it is hard on a pregnant or breastfeeding woman to not eat or drink anything for 10-15 hours.

(Amber adds: If I don’t drink enough water, my milk supply goes down.)

The other question is what to do if a woman does not fast in Ramazan. Most scholars want her to fast the 29-30 days later when she can. That attitude shows the sexism of these scholars in my opinion.

Consider a woman who has one child. These same scholars recommend breastfeeding a child for 2 years. Add in the 9 months pregnancy and a woman would miss almost 3 months of fasting. That is a lot of fasting to make up. Plus she also has to make up the week of fasting she misses in Ramazan when she’s not pregnant or breastfeeding because of menstruation.

But most of these scholars are also against birth control. So a woman is likely to have 4 kids than one. Multiply 2 years and 9 months by four and you get 11 months of Ramazan fasts missed. Let’s ask one of these scholars to actually make up 11 months of missed fasts in addition to the month of fasting every year. It is not impossible but is definitely extremely hard.

Voting Rights History

Since the election is only 3 weeks away, I was wondering about the history of voting rights in the US.

As I understand it, in the early days of the United States, voting was limited to white men who also held property. However, as today, the laws then also varied by state. So the first question that arises is whether there were any voting restrictions based on national origin or religion on land-owning white men? Also, when could all white men, whether land-owners or paupers, vote in all states?

The last group to get voting rights in the US were African Americans in the deep South. That I know a bit about. But what about northern states or western ones? Also, in the age of slavery, could free blacks vote in the US?

Talking about minorities, for a long time Native Americans were considered sovereign, though usually without much in the way of rights, and hence not citizens. When did that change specifically regarding voting?

Did other minorities (Hawaiians, Asians, Mexicans, etc.) have any problems with voting rights?

Women got the right to vote in most democracies in the early part of the 20th century (the Siwss being the major exception as usual). I believe the 19th amendment gave that right to the women in the US in 1920. But didn’t some states allow women to vote in local elections even in the late 19th century?

Since the US constitution is one of the older democratic constitutions, it has some features which would never be put in a modern constitution.

One of those features is leaving voting rights to the states. This has some interesting consequences. The disenfranchisement of the Washington DC residents in Congressional elections is the first example that comes to mind. Why shouldn’t the residents of the city where Congress resides be able to vote for their own representatives? It just sounds crazy.

The electoral college is another strange idea left over from the 18th century. I don’t particularly mind the different weighting given to different states for the Presidential election. I would prefer popular election of the President with an instant runoff system, but in a federal system, some attention has to be paid to states as well. What bugs me is that the constitution allows a lot of leeway regarding the electors. State legislatures can, if they wish, nominate a slate of electors completely different in party affiliation from the popular vote in that state. Plus an elector is free to vote for whoever he wants regardless of the wishes of the voters of that state. These are big loopholes in the constitution.

While the Voting Rights Act improved the voting rights situation quite a lot, the US still doesn’t really give the right to vote to all its citizens. Over a dozen states bar felons from voting permanently. Most states have some form of disenfranchisement of (ex-)felons. The only exceptions are Vermont and Maine. Being from Pakistan, these laws seem to me to have a large potential for abuse. I believe in an absolute right to vote for all citizens. Anything less can be used by a corrupt justice system or government to disqualify its opponents.

While no one today would argue about giving the federal vote to non-citizens, it is not so far-fetched as some people suppose.

[T]he United States has a long history of allowing noncitizens to vote. Twenty-two states and federal territories at various times allowed noncitizens to vote – even as blacks and women were barred from the ballot box – in the 1800’s and 1900’s.

Concerns about the radicalism of immigrants arriving from southern and Eastern Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries led states to restrict such voting rights. By 1928, voting at every level had been restricted to United States citizens.

In recent years, there has been some movement towards giving municipal voting rights to non-citizens.

UPDATE: Spurred by Gary Farber, I have answered some of my own questions in the comments.

Missing Her

I am watching the debate right now, but instead of live-blogging the debate, I am missing my daughter. Since Michelle was born, I haven’t been away from her for more than a few hours. But now I am out of town for 2 days. So I am missing Michelle a lot. Amber tells me Michelle is missing me as well.

Eyes open Sleeping on her side See the look on Michelle's face
First time bottle-feeding 1 month old Nose to nose
Baby Bjorn rocks I love my swing Amber and Michelle
Tummy time Lifting her head

Vice Presidential Debate

Here are some scattered thoughts on yesterday’s debate between Cheney and Edwards.

  • It is difficult to watch a debate when one’s baby is being fussy. As a corollary, consoling the baby is more important than watching two politicians talk.
  • Dick Cheney definitely lived up to his name.
  • Cheney lied about every 30 seconds.
  • Since Cheney lied so proficiently, the debate was a tie.
  • Is it me or have the poor disappeared from American political rhetoric? Everything is for the middle class it seems.

UPDATE: Political Animal has a list of Cheney lies in the debate. Also, remember Cheney’s devastating line about never having met Edwards because Edwards never attends the Senate. Turns out there are photos of them together and Cheney has presided over the Senate only twice on Tuesdays in the last four years instead of “most Tuesdays.”

UPDATE II: Also see this Newsweek article.

Vote for Syed Kerry

Hey, American Muslims, vote for a Syed.

“New research by Burke’s Peerage reveals that Mr. Kerry is the only presidential candidate in U.S. history who has genealogical descent from Muslims, Jews and Christians.”

Mr. Kerry is kinsman of the Shi’ite shahs of Persia (the most famous was Shah Abbas I, who reigned from 1587 to 1629), as well as the Muslim kings of Tunisia, all of whom —- Democratic presidential nominee included —- descend from the prophet Muhammad.

Via Unmedia.

ڈی کے کہنے پر اب اس پوسٹ کا اردو ترجمہ حاظر ہے۔

امریکی مسلمانو سید کیری کو ووٹ دو۔

کیری فارس کے صفوی شیعہ بادشاہوں کا رشتہ دار ہے (ان میں سے سب سے مشہور شاہ عباس اول تھا جو ۱۵۸۷ سے ۱۶۲۹ تک حکمران رہا)۔ اس کے علاوہ کیری تونس کے مسلمان بادشاہوں سے بھی تعلق رکھتا ہے۔ اس طرح کیری کا نسب حضرت محمد سے جا ملتا ہے۔

Passion and Death of Jesus Christ: Comparing the Movie with the Gospels I

Some months ago, Zack and I watched the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. Zack wanted me to say a few words about the movie on the blog. I recently decided that late is better than never in this regard. So…

In this first installment of my comparison between the movie and the Gospels, I compare the movie’s presentation of Jesus’ time in Gethsemane and his ordeal before the council of high priests with the ones in the four Gospels. The comparison begins with a bulleted synopsis.

Before reading the synopsis and discussion, I must insert a disclaimer and beg the good reader’s pardon for I have not screened the movie since last spring. I wrote the Gospel synopses with the bible in my left hand, but the movie synopsis flows entirely from memory.

• Jesus prays that the awesome burden of his Passion and Death be lifted from his shoulders. He submits to God’s will and accepts his fate.
• The devil speaks to and tempts Jesus.
• The devil’s final temptation is an offer of escape through a quick death at the fangs of venomous serpent. Jesus refuses in dramatic fashion by crushing the snake.
• A party of armed men comes to Gethsemane in search of Jesus. The armed men appear to be temple guards.
• Judas identifies Jesus by kissing him.
• As the armed party closes with Jesus, one of the disciples draws his sword and cuts off the ear of a slave. Jesus stops the violence by rebuking his disciples, and then, he heals the wounded man.
• A chained and tethered Jesus is dropped from a bridge by his guards. He encounters Judas beneath the bridge.
• Demons are beginning to torment Judas.
• The armed party presents Jesus to a council of high priests.
• He is mocked and accused by an attendant crowd. His admission that he is God’s son seals his fate. Upon hearing Jesus’ admission, one of the council tares his priestly robes.
• Later, one of the more influential priests accepts responsibility for the decision to kill Jesus in the name of all present and future Jews.

Matthew’s Gospel:
• Jesus leaves his disciples and commands them to keep watch.
• Jesus prays for the removal of his “cup of suffering” on three separate occasions. He accepts God’s will.
• After each session of prayer, he finds his disciples asleep. Sleep is considered a temptation.
• The devil is NOT mentioned.
• Judas identifies Jesus for an armed crowd sent by the priests and elders by kissing him.
• A disciple cuts off the ear of a slave, and Jesus rebukes the offending disciple
• Jesus does NOT encounter Judas again.
• A council of high priests and elders preside over a meeting in which many unnamed individuals bare false witness against Jesus.
• When accused of claiming to be God’s Son, Jesus does not deny the charge.
• At this, the accusing priest rips his priestly robes, and the council condemns Jesus to death.

Mark’s Gospel:
• Jesus divides his disciples into two groups. Jesus takes Peter, James and John with him and leaves the other disciples in an undisclosed location.
• Besides naming the disciples in Jesus’ watch party, Matthew and Mark agree on Gethsemane.
• Judas identifies Jesus with a kiss; then, the armed mob sent by the priests, elders and teachers of the law seize him.
• One of the three disciples strikes at the high priest slave, but Jesus stops the violence by rebuking the mob.
• A boy follows the party until the guards try to arrest him. He sheds his linen clothing and flees.
• The interrogation proceeds as recounted by Matthew, but in Mark’s version Jesus clearly states that he is God’s Son.

Luke’s Gospel:
• Jesus takes his disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray.
• Leaving them a “stone’s throw” away, he prays in private that his “cup of suffering might pass.”
• An angel comes to strengthen him.
• He accepts God’s will
• He returns to find his disciples asleep; so, he rebukes them.
• A crowd arrives to arrest Jesus, and Judas identifies him with a kiss.
• One disciple severs the right ear of the high priest’s slave, but Jesus stops the violence by admonishing both parties. He heals the slave’s wound.
• The men guarding Jesus mock and beat him.
• An indeterminate amount of time passes between Jesus’ arrest and his presentation to a council of high priests, elders and teachers of the law.
• The council asks if he is the Messiah. Jesus does not deny the charge; so, they condemn him to death.

John’s Gospel:
• Jesus takes his disciples across Kidron Brook to an unnamed garden.
• Judas leads a group of Roman soldiers and Temple guards sent by the chief priests and Pharisees to the garden.
• When Judas’ party approaches, Jesus identifies himself.
• During the arrest, Peter cuts off Malchus’ ear. Malchus is the High Priest’s slave. Jesus stops the violence by censuring Peter.
• The guards take Jesus to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest. Annas’ questioning leads nowhere.
• Annas sends him to Caiaphas, the High Priest.

In the Catholic tradition, all four gospels serve as sources when recounting the last hours of Jesus’ time on Earth. So, one should not find it surprising that the movie contains elements drawn from them all. Particular lines of presentation and extra-bibilical scenes deserve note, however.

In these first few scenes, the movie follows the presentation of events contained in Matthew and Mark. The healing of the slave described in Luke is added. Jesus’ interrogation before the high priests most closely resembles that described in Matthew.

Matthew, Mark and Luke give Jesus a somewhat more passive role during the arrest; Judas identifies him with a kiss. In John, Judas simply leads an armed party to a garden where Jesus is praying. Jesus identifies himself, and the armed party initially falters. The composition of the armed party is interesting in that John includes Roman soldiers, but the other three Gospel writers and the movie do not.

The presence of the devil and Judas’ demon tormentors is extra-biblical. Luke states that an angel “strengthened” Jesus during his time of solitary prayer, but no other visitors are recorded. Interestingly, the Gospels do associate falling asleep with succumbing to some form of temptation, which raises questions about the nature of the disciples’ drowsiness. No mention is made of Judas after he delivers his fateful kiss; at least, no mention is made during the scenes currently under analysis. The movie is either taking significant poetic license or is drawing upon exotic sources.

Self Employment Help Needed

Does anyone know what all is involved in being self-employed? I am particularly interested in the tax aspects. It seems that a self-employed person has to send checks to the IRS multiple times in a year. Is that true?

Another important issue is health insurance. How can one get individual health insurance? Are there many hoops one has to jump through? Is it much more expensive than employer-offered plans? What are the tax implications for a self-employed person? Any recommendations of good insurance companies and plans?

I have poked around the web (and the IRS website) but I am still a little hazy on the concepts. So any help, direct or a link, would be appreciated.