“Are you fasting?”
I hate that question. My friends in Riyadh used to ask each other that question all the time. The appropriate answer was, “Yes.” An answer of, “No,” meant that the woman was menstruating or that she was sinning by not fasting. No one wanted to admit either of those two conditions.
Nevertheless, “Are you fasting?” was asked repeatedly, and I always said, “Yes.”
Many years ago in Riyadh, one of my close friends invited me to go with her to an iftar at a Saudi home. Both of us qualified to say, “No,” to The Question, and I asked her, “What shall we do? What shall we say? How can we go to an iftar when we are not fasting?”
“Pretend,” she said.
“Well, what about the prayer? Everyone prays Maghrib after breaking fast, so what shall we do?”
“Pretend,” she said again. “Just go through the motions without really praying.”
“Are you kidding? Isn’t that a sin?”
“I don’t know,” she said, “but what can we do? We are excused from fasting today, and we want to attend this gathering, but we don’t want the other ladies to look down their noses at us. Allah will forgive us.”
So we pretended, and I felt like a fraud, but I also thoroughly enjoyed the food and friendship of that rare night out on the town. I still say, “Yes,” to The Question, regardless of the correct answer, but I never again pretended anything beyond that.