Allah says in Surah Al-Baqarah that fasting is incumbent upon the believers like it was incumbent upon their predecessors, so that they may become righteous. Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to act upon the five pillars to complete the essential prescribed acts in Islam. The pillars of Islam (in order) are Tawheed (Belief in Allah), Salah (Prayer), Zakat (Alms), Sawm (Fasting), and Hajj (Pilgrimage).
According to Sunan an-Nasa’I, when asked about the best deed, the Prophet (PBUH) recommended fasting, saying there’s nothing that’s equal to Sawm. Fasting for Muslims means to abstain from food, drink and marital sexual relations from dawn (Fajr) till dusk (Maghrib). Fasting is compulsory during the month of Ramadan, which is the ninth month of the Hijri calendar.
There are many benefits of fasting in Islam. The most important virtue of fasting is that it brings one closer to Allah. This serves a Muslim well during the remainder of the year if he remains in a similar state. The month helps us to develop control over our desires. It also enables us to understand better what many of our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters go through – the poor and needy often only eat a meal a day, or worse.
In Sunan an-Nasai, the Prophet (PBUH) was reported to have said that the gates of Heaven are opened at the start of Ramadan, while the gates of Hell are closed, and the devils are chained. Hence, we can develop self-control, patience, and generosity and look to carry it forward during the rest of the year. However, that’s not all – fasting also has several associated health benefits.
A big craze that has recently developed in the fitness industry is that of intermittent fasting. The most popular method of intermittent fasting is to eat food during an eight-hour period and fast for the remaining 16 hours. This is quite similar to the length of a fast for many Muslims around the world.
This form of fasting is utilized by many people who are conscious of their fitness, due to the fasting benefits attained by abstaining from food and drink for long periods.
Healthier eating patterns and a curbed appetite
The nature of how we consume food sees us develop more and more appetite over time. With so much fast food and snacks available nowadays, people often eat when it may not even be required. Fasting helps to regulate that process. In the initial days of Ramadan, a person may find the fasts difficult. However, as the month progresses, it becomes easier.
Similarly, fasting helps the body to adapt to the real feeling of hunger. Rather than eating whenever we feel even slightly hungry, we will eat after a longer period. As a result, the body will be able to regulate the feeling of hunger when we really need food. Over time, a person’s stomach will also shrink, which will enable him to become full quicker than before.
Weight loss with Ramadan Fasting
Many people who fast begin to lose weight. Generally, fewer meals are possible during the time available for a person to eat. However, this is dependent on healthy eating habits and moderation in food consumption. Often, we see Muslims going overboard during Ramadan, as they consume massive meals to compensate for fasting. That isn’t the correct method. A healthy diet is also essential, with lots of protein and essential fats included in it. Also read some key tips for Ramadan checklist 2020
Lower blood pressure and cholesterol with Ramadan Fasting
Studies conducted by doctors have shown that fasting can reduce high blood pressure. A healthy level of blood pressure is essential for humans. High blood pressure can increase a human’s risk of contracting heart disease and other complications.
Studies have also shown that LDL cholesterol—also known as the bad cholesterol—is reduced in people who fast. High bad cholesterol is harmful to humans as it increases a person’s chances of heart-related illness, Allah forbid.
Chronic inflammation often results in chronic conditions, including heart disease and arthritis. Several studies have shown that fasting decreases inflammation and results in better health. This is also a useful method of treatment for people who are already suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions.
Improved metabolism and digestive system functionality
Fasting gives the digestive system a period of rest. This allows your body to get cleansed of any harmful toxins or similar substances. It also enables your body to be efficient with the way calories are burned. Hence, digestion is improved, and the healthy function of the bowels is promoted. This, in turn, improves a person’s metabolism.
Improved growth and muscular strength
Medical studies have been carried out that show that fasting can increase the levels of the Human Growth Hormone (HGH). HGH is an important hormone. It plays a role in a human’s growth and muscle strength.
Mental health – Fasting benefits in this month
The fasts of Ramadan can strengthen the mind and provide us with clarity of thought. During fasts, we avoid unhealthy things such as excessively sweet or salty foods. These foods can have a negative impact on our brain, and by avoiding them, the mental capacity is improved.
From an Islamic perspective, the fasts of Ramadan can have a dramatic effect on a person’s mental health. Abstaining from food, drink, and sexual relations enables a person to develop attributes such as patience and tranquility. Anger is highly discouraged in general, and more so in Ramadan. Hence, keeping calm is an essential trait of the Muslim during Ramadan. Bad habits are suppressed during Ramadan, which can improve our self-esteem and confidence as we abide by Allah’s commands.
Muslims are also required to focus on performing good deeds and pray and read Quran for Allah’s sake. This can help a person to get out of depression and anxiety as he will be preoccupied with other acts. We focus more on Allah during this month, rather than ourselves.
Fasting is the fourth pillar of Islam, and Muslims must take it very seriously. We can not neglect fasting in the month of Ramadan as it is obligatory for all Muslims who are physically capable of doing it. However, if we need any further encouragement, we simply have to look at all the associated health benefits of fasting in Islam. For a person with weak emaan, this can be one way to get them on board. But Muslims should primarily see this as an added benefit, and the sole reason for fasting should be Allah’s decree.