By Prof. M. Aslam
The Ramadan fasting or ‘Roza’ as practiced by Muslims is an elaborate process of self-reform, self-restraint and involves a wide range of responsibilities on the part of those who observe fasting. It also helps us strengthen our powers of self-control, refrain from the natural human urges by exercising our ability of self-restraint, leading to self-improvement. Spiritually, it helps us to attain nearness and closeness to God.
Essentially a Ramadan Fast means a greater effort to perform all the usual duties and something else, more prayers and more charity, and all this in the absence of food and drink. Fasting should make one remember the hunger and starvation of the poor and develop empathy for the deprived people. It is an opportunity to experience hunger so that people will understand the pain of the hungry and will go forward to help them. Most unfortunately, instead of feeding poor and hungry, we spend a lot of money in hosting “ Iftar Parties” and invite each other. We get in to a competition with each other in doing so. This is not desirable. Earlier political parties used to take advantage of this and host ‘Iftar Parties” to gain political credence. It has stopped now for whatever reason.
Ramadan fasting is also an exercise in self-discipline. For those who are chain smokers or who nibble food constantly, or drink coffee every hour, Ramadan provides an excellent opportunity to break the habit.
Human being consist of physical, emotional, biological and spiritual aspects. The fasting during the month of Ramadan orients the observer to the art of balancing the spiritual aspects with others. It helps curb the animalistic tendencies originating from the stomach, in full. It is an effective tool for sobering of a mind and reconstruction of our spiritual faculties.
Apart from balancing of physical, emotional, biological and spiritual aspects, the Ramadan fasting has enormous health benefits. As reported by Racha AdibTop in “4 incredible health benefits of fasting in Ramadan” published by Al Arabiya News July 2014 that as early as 1994 the International Congress on “Health and Ramadan” was held in Casablanca, It covered 50 studies on the medical ethics of Ramadan and noted various improvements in the health conditions of those who fast. Since then hundreds of studies have been conducted to establish one or the other health benefit of Ramdan fasting. The four incredible health benefits as pointed out by Racha are that it provides tranquility of the heart and mind; improves your blood fat levels; may help you overcome addictions and promotes fat breakdown and weight loss.
As reported in J Community Med Health Educ 2012, “Psycho-Social Behaviour and Health Benefits of Islamic Fasting during the Month of Ramadan” by Ahmed and others that the fasting is considered to be powerful therapeutic process which can go a long way in improving health conditions. that can help people recover from mild to severe health conditions. The physiological effects of fasting include lowering of blood sugar, cholesterol and systolic blood pressure. It has now been established that fasting hastens the destruction of decaying tissues of the body and helps build new tissues. It greatly helps to normalise our weight. Since it provides rest to the stomach and intestines thus enables them to repair damaged structures. According to one estimate, using a calorie counter, the amount of calories burnt during the special night prayer of Ramadan (tarawih) amounted to 200 calories.
I do suffer from hypertension for many years now and am on regular medication. Believe me, when I observe Ramadan every year, within three days of Ramadan fasting, my B.P gets into normal range. Even Lipid Profile improves drastically.
The human being consist of physical, emotional, biological and spiritual aspects. A balanced mix of these can lead to spiritual harmony and healthy life. The fasting during the month of Ramadan orients the observer to the art of balancing the spiritual essentials with other aspects of life. If we remain true to ourselves, we will certainly get entitled for God’s blessings and protection.
Prof. Aslam is Former Vice-Chancellor, IGNOU, New Delhi. He is a Member of the Collegium of Eminent Social Scientists constituted by the ICSSR; Fellow EDI of the World Bank; Distinguished Fellow, AGRASRI, Tirupati, A.P He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org