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The Islamic Fast and the Holy Month of Ramadan – Part II

Continued from Part I below:

The Islamic Fast and the Holy Month of Ramadan – Part I

Neuroscientist Dr. Mark Mattson:

“Has shown that mice (*to date there have been few tests done on humans and fasting) on calorie-restricted diets are sharper than their better-fed friends when it comes to memory tests, and in 2016, his work with humans suggested that fasting could help protect the brain from the amyloid proteins that build up during Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, Prof Tim Spector at King’s College London has noticed that fasting also affects our gut bacteria: several species of bacteria found in people with good health appear in higher levels after a fast. So occasionally skipping breakfast might be enough of a fast to benefit your microbiome,” (Science Focus, Is Fasting Good for You?) *my words

Such modern scientific findings tell us more about the wisdom of Islam that Muslims were told to fast and that it has hidden benefits alluded to in the Quran:

2:184 “Fast for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill or on a journey, the prescribed number should be made up from days later. For those who can do it with hardship is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will, it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew.”

The underlined, “if ye only knew…” means there are benefits of fasting that Allah has withheld from us. Who would want to fast for a month if it weren’t something you were doing for God? It seems apparent that God purposely withheld the benefits as a way of distinguishing and testing those who were doing the Ramadan fast as a worshipful duty from those who were more intent on gaining the benefits. If fasting does turn out to ward off dementia for example, or heal other life-threatening maladies, naturally more people would want to fast. It will be interesting to see how many more scientific proofs and personal testimonies about fasting and its benefits will be discovered.

I’ve been fasting 28 years, (not consecutively) and every year I learn more about myself; my strengths, abilities, and weaknesses. Perfecting our fast, (our will, our activities, our personhood) should be the focus. This is where the elders in a family can take on a prestigious role teaching the lessons they have learned. Teaching that Ramadan is not a time about self or food or how big the meal is. It is the time to do more good deeds, because good deeds are more rewarded during this time. The reason being, the more difficult a good deed is to do, the more rewarded it is. Muslims prepare large amounts of food and deliver it to neighborhood mosques or distribute it to poor families. Such work is highly rewarded.

Fasting accentuates our personalities. We see our motivations and how they can drive us positively or negatively. Spending the fasting hours reading Quran is not only rewarded it is beneficial and healing to the body and mind.

Through fasting we understand the physical and emotional aspects of going without not only food, drink, and the other prohibitions, we find ourselves more and more reliant upon Allah, for strength, courage, endurance, whatever we need to make it through. This seems obviously a purposeful design by our Maker to teach us the duality of our human nature, being part physical and part spiritual; self-reliant yet, needy at times. We need God. We need His healing power. God wants us to call on Him.

During Ramadan, there are extra prayers other than the five daily prayers that are not mandatory, but their importance is stressed. It’s a month that subdues the physical aspects and accentuates the spiritual. Prayer is the conduit to communicating with our creator. In prayer, we are in the most, humble position, when we prostrate with our foreheads on the ground asking for forgiveness and whatever else we need.

Even though Ramadan is not about eating, we still have to think about food and prepare nutritious meals. Although we are not supposed to be engrossed in eating or drinking, we learn that we must do these things in an intelligent way or we will suffer ill health. We are physical and spiritual beings and each aspect follows natural laws.

Stuffing ourselves after shrinking our stomach is both an ignorant thing to do and is painful. It is best to break a fast with something light; a small meal and a drink. Soup, a bit of bread, and some water is enough. The Prophet broke his fast with dates. A heavy or large amount of food will make you bloated and stressed. Taking care of ourselves shows sensitivity and intelligence; both are acts of worship-showing Allah that we appreciate our life. Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) said: the stomach should be filled one third with food, one third with drink, and one-third empty for optimum digestion. The medical world has just realized this truth as the optimum way to feed and nourish ourselves.

A true free believer is one who willingly prays, fasts, and gives charity, in order to please Allah.

There is no coercion in religion, the Quran states this clearly. You cannot force faith or belief. It has to come naturally from a person. A true free believer is one who willingly prays, fasts, and gives charity, in order to please Allah. Muslims encourage their young children to fast for half days until they’re old enough to fast the whole day. Believe me, most children in Muslim families want to take part in the family’s joy at Iftar. The month is a challenge but it is also a joy while meeting up to the final victory of completion.

Regular fasting teaches us that if we ever have to go without food and drink, during a catastrophe, for example, we will know how long we can last without losing our strength, health, or consciousness. The first time I met a fasting person was when they were barbecuing numerous little hamburgers for their Iftar. They invited me to join them and I got to watch how they broke their fast and saw how they did wudu (ablution) and saw the awesome solemn movements of the Islamic prayer. All prayer is beautiful but the bowing and prostrating made me feel this was where the created and Creator were put in the rightful order.

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Laurie Hill
Laurie Hill
Laurie Hill holds a Liberal Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University and a Certificate for Writing Social Commentary, (2006). Having traveled to many countries she is a passionate promoter for world peace for all people and all religious thought, as long as its base is non-violent, and respects individual freedom. An aspiring novelist with three completed novels she is currently working to publish her third. She has resided in Jeddah for twenty-eight years.

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3 CONVERSATIONS

  1. Another great one Laurie Hill! I agree that the pandemic was well timed as it started in Rajab and shelter in place firmly established in Shaban, the two holy months leading up to Ramadan. how many years do we abruptly shift from “busy life” to the “Ramadan slowdown”. It is a challenge for those of us where Muslims are the minority. Alhamdullilah this year the whole world is in stillness with us!

    I also like your point about anger. Emotions only last 90 seconds, 3 minutes max. After that we are just, fueling the fire with our thoughts. While fasting, we are taught to say, “I am fasting”, to stop confrontations. I use it even outside of Ramadan.

    On nutrition, hydration is cumulative so drinking two glasses of water when you break you fast each night before indulging will make it harder to eat too much and reinforce hydration. A few years ago when Ramadan was in the hottest months in the Northern Hemisphere I wrote an ebook called Ramadan Food Hacks, to help us get through eating hydrating foods and nutrient dense foods.

    • I love this comment Cordelia.
      Hope you have a great Ramadan with lots of spiritual blessings.
      thank you so much for adding to our community in the way you do.
      jazakallah khair

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