Benefits of Ramadan
Friday, July 12, 2013 – Ramadan is a very special time for Muslims, but the feelings and lessons we experience should stay with us throughout the year. In the Holy Qur’an, Muslims are commanded to fast so that they may “learn self-restraint” (Qur’an 2:183). This restraint and devotion is especially felt during Ramadan, but we all must strive to make the feelings and attitudes stay with us during our “normal” lives. That is the true goal and test of Ramadan.
Ramadan is a period of fasting, reflection, devotion, generosity and sacrifice observed by Muslims around the world. While major holidays of other faiths have largely become commercialized events, Ramadan retains its intense spiritual meaning. The word “Ramadan” comes from the Arabic root word for “parched thirst” and “sun-baked ground.” It is expressive of the hunger and thirst felt by those who spend the month in fasting. As opposed to other holidays, when people often indulge, Ramadan is by nature a time of sacrifice. Through fasting, a Muslim experiences hunger and thirst, and sympathizes with those in the world who have little to eat every day.
The difference between Ramadan and total fasting is the timing of the food; during Ramadan, we basically miss lunch and take an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Abstinence from water for 8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health and in fact, it causes concentration of all fluids within the body, producing slight dehydration. The body has its own water conservation mechanism; in fact, it has been shown that slight dehydration and water conservation, at least in plant life, improve their longevity.
The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic blood pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for the treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension. In 1994 the first International Congress on “Health and Ramadan”, held in Casablanca, entered 50 extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting. While improvement in many medical conditions was noted; however, in no way did fasting worsen any patients’ health or their baseline medical condition.
On the other hand, patients who are suffering from severe diseases, whether type I diabetes or coronary artery disease, kidney stones, etc., are exempt from fasting and should not be allowed to fast. There are psychological effects of fasting as well. There is a peace and tranquility for those who fast during the month of Ramadan. Personal hostility is at a minimum, and the crime rate decreases. Muslims take advice from the Holy Prophet (PBUH) who said, “If one slanders you or aggresses against you, say I am fasting.”
This psychological improvement could be related to better stabilization of blood glucose during fasting as hypoglycemia after eating, aggravates behavior changes. There is a beneficial effect of extra prayer at night. There are 10 extra calories output for each unit of the prayer. Again, we do not do prayers for exercise, but a mild movement of the joints with extra calorie utilization is a better form of exercise. Similarly, recitation of the Quran not only produces a tranquility of heart and mind, but improves the memory.
Ramadan is the period of rest for the digestive system, which is responsible for the metabolism process of food. Consequently, the liver also takes rest as it is the main factory of food metabolism. To achieve this benefit, Moslems should adhere to the tradition (sunnah) of the Prophet by abstaining from having too much food after breakfast. The Prophet (PBUH) said;”The son-of-Adam never fills a bowl worse than his belly. Some bites are enough for man to prop his physique. Had he wished otherwise, then one third for his food, and one third for his drink, and one third for his breath.” It is of benefit to the body that the break of fasting starts with some dates (as indicated in the Prophetic tradition). Dates are rich in Glucose and Fructose, which have a great caloric benefit especially for the brain, and are useful in raising the level of sugar gradually in blood, thus reducing the feeling of hunger and the need for large quantities of food.
May Allah accept our fasting, forgive our sins, and guide us all to the Straight Path. May Allah bless us all during Ramadan, and throughout the year, with His forgiveness, mercy, and peace, and bring us all closer to Him and to each other.
(Agha M Ajmal)