As a Muslim, Muneeb has not always felt that his Crohn's allowed him to fully practice his faith and stay close to God. Over time, and after speaking to his teachers and reflecting on his situation, he realised that there was flexibility to worship his way and find acceptance.
Having Crohn’s usually meant I felt impure no matter how often I cleaned and carried out the act of Wudhu.
Wudhu (ablution, or the act of washing) is part of preparing to pray and is carried out before prayers and turning to Allah (God). Not feeling clean and pure enough to pray has made me turn away from worshipping on occasions. I have also felt, since having an ileostomy, that I was not worthy enough of praying because I felt that no matter how much I cleaned out my bag there would always be some form of wastage left in.
As time passed, I started to take extra precautions to clean out the bag. This usually consumed a significant amount of time and I found this difficult at times.
I wanted to make sure I was fully clean.
I decided to speak to a notable Imam (teacher) in my local town, who reassured me and explained that emptying the bag was enough. My feelings of impurity were perhaps misplaced. The Imam told me there is flexibility to accommodate a variety of circumstances and I should pray as normal. He suggested I try and ease off on the extensive cleaning and rather ensure my intention was good and righteous, because that is what God would look at.
I realised how right this was. Before, no matter what I did, I felt impure to stand up and pray. But after re-evaluating the situation and my intentions and paying close attention to them, I began to realise that, as a Muslim, my God will accept my acts of worship however I felt. This made a huge difference to me. I realised that what I classed as “impure” was incorrect, it is a person's intention that is most important.
On some occasions, praying became difficult due to constant pain and fatigue.
I found I could not physically manage the fixed prayer position, especially during flare-ups. I then decided to begin using a chair to pray for ease and comfort, which helped a lot as it minimised the movement and pressure on my ileostomy.
During the month of Ramadan I felt left out when reminded by others of the importance the month holds for us as Muslims. I felt no one understood what I was going through and felt like I was on the periphery. I felt distanced because this illness made fasting very difficult and almost impossible, so it was as though there was a void between myself and what others telling me.
Over the years though, having reflected and gained a greater appreciation of the faith, I understand that Ramadan is more holistic and encompasses far more than the act of fasting. I can use the month to perform other acts of worship.
Fasting is important but so is charity, reciting the Holy Qur’an, praying, helping people. These are some of the areas I now focus my Ramadan on, knowing it is God who will accept.
Wherever I have encountered difficulties, I have also managed to speak to the right people including my family, friends, professionals and Imams, who have suggested practical solutions. At first, I struggled.
I felt there were insufficient words to explain what I was going through. I wanted to help people understand and this included my family and friends. However, there is now greater awareness and important discussions have taken place. There are platforms and safe spaces available to facilitate this discussion and it has allowed for many people to come forward and speak about their issues and concerns.
The ‘Not Every Disability Is Visible’ campaign had a huge role in allowing me to tell my story and, through this, gaining access to provide relevant information about the illness to those within my community. I felt that prior to this I was unable to reach out to others. However, since then I feel with the support of organisations like Crohn’s & Colitis UK and my Shaykh (teacher), I have been able to encourage others to come forward and speak openly about their worries and concerns relating to the illness.
Don’t be hesitant in asking for help.
I would also like to take this opportunity to remind people that Crohn’s & Colitis UK and local Imams are here to help and advise wherever possible. Adapting will take time, there will be occasions where you will feel isolated, spiritually disconnected and away from your religion but this is all from God.
We as Muslims know and believe that Allah is the most Kind and that “he does not burden a soul beyond that which it can bear…” (Qur'an, 2:286).