Will I be able to concentrate during my exams if I’m fasting? Will I have to give up sports during Ramadan?
I have such a busy life. Will I be able to cope?
Everyone around me is eating! How can I control it when smells of burger and pizza come wafting my way?!
Isn’t Allah the Most Forgiving? Can’t I just fast on the 1st and 27th of Ramadan? I will do the rest when I’m older. Allah will forgive.
Are doubts like these making it hard for you to fast Ramadan? If you are confused whether fasting will bring more harms or benefits, or if it’s really worthwhile, then this article is just for you.
Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam, as we all know very well. But what does it really mean? Think of a building that has an essential pillar missing. What will happen to it if a storm or an earthquake strikes it?
A similar fate is likely to strike your Islam if the pillar of fasting is missing from your life.
Let’s do a cost-benefit analysis. Let’s look at what fasting can do for your body, mind and soul, and then decide if it’s worth your while to make special accommodation for it in your everyday life.
The Science of Fasting – What It Does to Our Bodies
What happens to your body when you stop eating and drinking for several hours?
If it is the first time ever that you’re doing so, then it will be a shock to your body to be suddenly deprived of its regular glucose supply, and you will experience some discomfort, maybe tiredness, headache, hunger pangs and/or irritable mood.
But here’s the thing. What happens if, despite all these difficulties, you continue to fast? Some really nice things will start happening in a day or two.
The human body, especially that of a healthy and vigorous young adult, is very efficient at adapting to changes. So, provided you are generally in good health, the discomforts you were experiencing while fasting will disappear. On top of that, you will begin to sense the positive health boosts that your body has been busily developing from day 1.
What are these health boosts?
Your cells begin a cleaning and repair process. Your body’s growth hormone (HGH) production shoots up, increasing your metabolism, fat-burning and muscle strength.
Now you can carry on with your usual lifestyle with as much ease when you’re fasting as when you’re not. In fact, if everything goes right, you will experience increased alertness, strength and energy levels.
Moreover, long-term fasting improves your brain’s structure and function, helps fight infections and increase your immunity, and reduces your risks of developing chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. It is also a good way to detox according to many health professionals.
The Spiritual Benefits of Fasting
How would you like it if praying, fasting and every other act of worship suddenly became incredibly easy to do? Imagine if, the moment you stand in prayer, your eyes begin to water in awe of Allah.
On top of that, imagine if you were always happy no matter what difficulties you faced in life; always content and at peace. That is the constant state of mind of people who are truly grateful, and that’s the second gift that those who fast in Ramadan will earn. (2:185)
Does every person in this world live until old age? How many young people have you yourself heard of dying?
What is the guarantee that we will see the next Ramadan? I may die before I finish typing this article out, my dead hands still on the keyboard. And you may die before you can finish reading it.
Even if we are still alive next Ramadan, there is no saying what the state of our health will be. The point is, you only have control of this moment that’s passing right now.
Seize the opportunity while you still have it.
If you’re fasting in Ramadan but not experiencing any of the benefits we discussed here, then you need to take a closer look at the rest of your life. Fasting taken as an isolated act of worship won’t bring many benefits; it’s when you plant it in the healthful soil of Islam as a whole that it will come to full bloom.
If, for example, you fast while skipping some or all of your daily prayers, your not-eating won’t count for much. In fact, some scholars even say your fast will be invalid.
If a person fasts all day and then eats till his belly is about to burst, he can hardly expect the benefits of detoxification. If he indulges in iftar with his rich friends at an expensive restaurant while his neighbors don’t have enough to eat, you can hardly expect him to develop taqwa and gratitude at the end of the month.
Perform your daily prayers on time, fasting every day, practice moderation in eating, give charity and share your food, connect with the Quran, and obey Allah in all that He orders you to do and to abstain from doing; and you’ll truly realize to the full extent the incredible benefits of Ramadan in sha Allah.
References and Further Research
Healthline. 8 Health Benefits of Fasting, Backed by Science
._________. Intermittent Fasting 101
WebMD. Is Fasting Healthy?
Medical News Today. What are the benefits of intermittent fasting?
Nouman Ali Khan. Ramadan in Allah’s Words
._________. Why Fast?