Islam,

Why,When And How we should fasting?

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Fasting has its advantages from the point of view of health and hygiene. Islam wants a Muslim to be healthy, clean, alert, agile and energetic. "Fast to be healthy," had said the Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.). And physicians today acknowledge the many benefits of fasting that ensure health and the soundness of one's body and mind. Some of these positive points have a direct influence on psychology and physique of the fasting individual.

So I was trying to make a really good post about fasting, I know more of you have done one so I was trying to do something more scientific but while I was making my research I found a lot of pros and cons, first of all; Fast is one of the pillars of Islam, which means is an order of god to do it.

Some people is in pro of fasting and other against fasting, basically if you have any inconvenience while fasting I'm sure is due to a wrong fasting, see, fasting means to abstain "completely" from foods, drinks, intimate intercourse and smoking, before the break of the dawn till sunset, during the entire month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic year. But if we restrict the meaning of the Islamic Fasting to this literal sense, we would be sadly mistaken.

Spiritual meaning of the Islamic Fasting:


It teaches man the principle of sincere Love: because when he observes

Fasting he does it out of deep love for God. And the man who loves God truly is a man who really knows what love is.

It equips man with a creative sense of hope and an optimistic outlook on life; because when he fasts he is hoping to please God and is seeking His Grace.

It imbues in man the genuine virtue of effective devotion, honest dedication and closeness to God; because when he fasts he does so for God and for His sake alone.

It cultivates in man a vigilant and sound conscience; because the fasting person keeps his fast in secret as well as in public. In fasting, especially, there is no mundane authority to check man's behavior or compel him to observe fasting. He keeps it to please God and satisfy his own conscience by being faithful in secret and in public. There is no better way to cultivate a sound conscience in man.

-It indoctrinates man in patience and selflessness, as through fasting, he feels the pains of deprivation but he endures them patiently.

-It is an effective lesson in applied moderation and willpower.

-Fasting also provides man with a transparent soul, a clear mind and a light body.

-It shows man a new way of wise savings and sound budgeting.

-It enables man to master the art of Mature Adaptability. We can easily understand the point once we realize that fasting makes man change the entire course of his daily life.

-It grounds man in discipline and healthy survival.

-It originates in man the real spirit of social belonging, unity and brotherhood, of equality before God as well as before the law.

-It is a Godly prescription for self-reassurance and self-control.

Some Muslims, unfortunately for them, do not observe the fast or, at best, adopt the attitude of indifference. On the other hand, some of those who observe it do not realize its true meaning and, as a result, derive very little benefit out of it or, in fact, no benefit at all. That is why some Muslims today, do not enjoy the real privileges of fasting.

Fasting In Islam:

It has already been indicated that the period of obligatory fasting is the month of Ramadan. The daily period of observance starts before the break of the dawn and ends immediately after sunset. Normally there are accurate calendars to toll the exact time, but in the absence of such facilities one should consult one's watch and the sun's positions, together with the local newspapers, weather bureau, etc.

Fasting Ramadan is obligatory on every responsible and fit Muslim. But there are other times when it is recommended to make voluntary fasting, after the Traditions of Prophet Muhammad. Among these times are Mondays and Thursdays of every week, a few days of each month in the two months heralding the coming of Ramadan, i.e., Rajab and Sha'ban, six days after Ramadan following the 'Eid-ul-Fitr Day. Besides, it is always compensating to fast any day of any month of the year, except the 'Eid Days and Fridays when no Muslim should fast.

However, we may repeat that the only obligatory fasting is that of Ramadan - which may be 29 or 30 days, depending on the moon's positions. This is a pillar of Islam, and any failure to observe it without reasonable excuses is a grave sin in the sight of God.

Who Must Fast?
Fasting Ramadan is compulsory upon every Muslim, male or female, who has these qualifications:

-To be mentally and physically fit, which means to be sane and able.

-To be of full age, the age of puberty and discretion, which is normally about fourteen. Children under this age should be encouraged to start this good practice on easy levels, so when they reach the age of puberty they will be mentally and physically prepared to observe fasting.

-To be present at one's permanent settlement, your home town, one's farm, and one's business premises, etc. This means not to be on a journey of about fifty miles or more.

-To be fairly certain that fasting is unlikely to cause you any harm, physical or mental, other than the normal reactions to hunger, thirst, etc.

But fasting should have its regulations too, and not simply the in orderly skipping meals, that is bound to harm health and stamina, rather than improving them. Here again Islam provides the answer, and in order to realize the benefits of fasting, it recommends the late midnight meals called Sahar (before the formal start of a fast) and the breaking of the fast at the time prescribed. Of course, to ensure good health one should abstain from gluttony after breaking fast.

Moderation: It is difficult to identify the moderation in the desires for food and sex because of the different needs and energies of individuals. Moderation of an individual may be considered as exaggeration or shortage for another. The relative moderation is to have only the quantity that is sufficient, away from greed and fill. The best criterion in this regard is that which was stated by Imam Ali ibn Abi Talib (AS):

"Son! May I instruct you four words after which you will no longer need medicine? Do not eat unless you are hungry. Stop eating while you are still hungry. Chew food deliberately. Before sleeping, go to toilet. You will not need medicine if you follow."

In the holy Quran, there is a Verse gathering the whole matter of medicine. It is: "...Eat and drink but do not be excessive." (7:31)

Exemption From Fasting:
These said qualifications exclude the following categories:

-Children under the age of puberty and discretion.

-Insane people who are unaccountable for their deeds. People of these two categories are exempted from the duty of fist, and no compensation or any other substitute is enjoined on them.

-Men and women who are too old and feeble to undertake the obligation of fast and bear its hardships. Such people are exempted from this duty, but they must offer, at least, one needy poor Muslim an average full meal or its value per person per day.

-Sick people whose health is likely to be severely affected by the observance of fast. They may postpone the fast, as long as they are sick, to a later date and make up for it, a day for a day.

-Travelers may break the fast temporarily during their travel only and make up for it in later days, a day for a day

-Pregnant women and women breast-feeding their children may also break the fast, if its observance is likely to endanger their own health or that of their infants. But they must make up for the fast at a delayed time, a day for a day.

-Women in the -period of menstruation (of a maximum of ten days or of confinement (of a maximum of forty days).; They must postpone the fast till recovery and then make up for it, a day for a day.

-It should be understood that here, like in all other Islamic undertakings, the intention must be made clear that this action is undertaken in obedience to God, in response to His command and out of love of Him.

The fast of any day of Ramadan becomes void by intentional eating or drinking or smoking or indulgence in any intimate intercourse, and by allowing anything to enter through the mouth into the interior parts of the body. And if this is done deliberately without any lawful reason, this is a major sin which only renewed repentance can expiate.

If anyone, through forgetfulness, does something that would ordinarily break the fast, 0a observance is not nullified, and his fast stands valid, provided he stops doing that thing the moment he realizes what he is doing.

On completion of the fast of Ramadan, the special charity known as Sadagat-ul-Fitr (charity of ' Fast-breaking) must be distributed before 'Eid-ul-Fitr (approximately), seven dollars per head.

General Recommendations:

In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume slow digesting foods including fiber containing-foods rather than fast-digesting foods; slow digesting foods including fiber containing-foods rather than fast-digesting foods. Slow digesting foods last up to 8 hours, while fast-digesting foods last for only 3 to 4 hours.

Slow-digesting foods are foods that contain grains and seeds like barely, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, whole meal flour, unpolished rice, etc. (called complex carbohydrates).

Fast-burning foods are foods that contain sugar, white flour, etc. (called refined carbohydrates).

Fiber-containing foods are bran-containing foods, whole wheat, grains and seeds, vegetables like green beans, peas, sem (papry), marrow, mealies, spinach, and other herbs like methie, the leaves of beetroot (iron-rich), fruit with skin, dried fruit especially dried apricots, figs and prunes, almonds, etc.

The foods eaten should be well balanced, containing foods from each food group, i.e., fruits, vegetables, meat/chicken/fish, bread/cereals and dairy products. Fried foods are unhealthy and should be limited. They cause indigestion, heartburn, and weight problems.

AVOID:
Fried and fatty foods.
Foods containing too much sugar.
Over-eating especially at sehri.
Too much tea at sehri: Tea makes you pass more urine taking with it valuable mineral salts that your body would need during the day. Smoking cigarettes: If you cannot give up smoking, cut down gradually starting a few weeks before Ramadan. Smoking is unhealthy and one should stop completely.

EAT:
Complex carbohydrates at sehri so that the food lasts longer making you less hungry. Haleem is an excellent source of sugar, fiber, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium. Almonds are rich in protein and fiber with less fat. Bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates.

DRINK:
As much water or fruit juices as possible between iftar and bedtime so that your body may adjust fluid levels in time.

It is strongly recommended by Prophet Muhammad to observe these practices especially during Ramadan:

-To have a light meal before the break of the dawn, known as Suhoor.

-To eat a few dates or start breaking the fast by plain water right after sunset, saying this prayer Allah humma laka sumna, wa 'ala rizqika aftarna. (O God! for Your sake have we fasted and now we break the fast with the food You have given us).

-To make your meals as light as possible because, as the Prophet put it, the worst thing man can fill is his stomach.

-To observe the supererogatory prayer known as Taraweeh.

-To exchange social visits and intensify humanitarian services.

-To increase the study and recitation of the Qur'an.

-To exert the utmost in patience and humbleness.
-To be extraordinarily cautious in using one's senses, one's mind and, especially, the tongue; to abstain from careless gossip and avoid all suspicious motions.
I hope this was helpfull to know the benefits of fasting and why Allah order it to us.


Health Guidelines for Ramadan Fasting

CONSTIPATION:
Constipation can cause piles (hemorrhoids), fissures (painful cracks in anal canal) and indigestion with a bloated feeling.
Causes: Too much refined foods, too little water and not enough fiber in the diet.
Remedy: Avoid excessive refined foods, increase water intake, and use bran in baking, brown flour when making roti.

INDIGESTION AND WIND:
Causes:
Over-eating. Too much fried and fatty foods, spicy foods, and foods that produce wind e.g. eggs, cabbage, lentils, carbonated drinks like Cola also produce gas.
Remedy: Do not over-eat, drink fruit juices or better still drink water. Avoid fried foods, add ajmor to wind-producing foods.

LETHARGY (low blood pressure)
Excessive sweating, weakness, tiredness, lack of energy, dizziness, especially on getting up from sitting position, pale appearance and feeling faint are symptoms associated with "low blood pressure". This tends to occur towards the afternoon.
Causes: Too little fluid intake decreased salt intake.
Remedy: Keep cool, increase fluid and salt intake.
Caution: Low blood pressure should be confirmed by taking a blood pressure reading when symptoms are present. People with high blood pressure may need their medication adjusted during Ramadan. They should consult their doctor.

HEADACHE:
Causes: Caffeine and tobacco-withdrawal, doing too much in one day, lack of sleep, hunger usually occurs as the day goes by and worsens at the end of the day. When associated with "low blood pressure", the headache can be quite severe and can also cause nausea before Iftar.
Remedy: Cut down caffeine and tobacco slowly starting a week or two before Ramadan. Herbal and caffeine-free teas may be substituted. Reorganize your schedule during the Ramadan so as to have adequate sleep.

LOW BLOOD SUGAR:
Weakness, dizziness, tiredness, poor concentration, perspiring easily, feeling shaky (tremor), unable to perform physical activities, headache, palpitations are symptoms of low blood sugar.
Causes in non-diabetics: Having too much sugar i.e., refined carbohydrates especially at suhur (sehri). The body produces too much insulin causing the blood glucose to drop.
Remedy: Eat something at sehri and limit sugar-containing foods or drinks.
Caution: Diabetics may need to adjust their medication in Ramadan, consult your doctor.

MUSCLE CRAMPS:
Causes: Inadequate intake of calcium, magnesium and potassium foods.
Remedy: Eat foods rich in the above minerals e.g. vegetables, fruits, dairy products, meat and dates.
Caution: Those on high blood pressure medication and with kidney stone problems should consult their doctor.

PEPTIC ULCERS, HEART BURN, GASTRITIS AND HIATUS HERNIAB:
Increase acid levels in the empty stomach in Ramadan aggravate the above conditions. It presents as a burning feeling in the stomach area under the ribs and can extend up to the throat. Spicy foods, coffee, and Cola drinks worsen these conditions.
Medications are available to control acid levels in the stomach. People with proven peptic ulcers and hiatus hernia should consult their doctor well before Ramadan.

KIDNEY STONES:
Kidney stones may occur in people who have less liquid to drink. There fore, it is essential to drink extra liquids so as to prevent stone formation.

JOINT PAINS:
Causes:
during Ramadan, when extra salah are performed the pressure on the knee joints increases. In the elderly and those with arthritis this may result in pain, stiffness, swelling and discomfort.
Remedy: Lose weight so that the knees do not have to carry any extra load. Exercise the lower limbs before Ramadan so that they can be prepared for the additional strain. Before physically fit allows greater fulfillment, thus enabling one to be able to perform salah with ease.
To be continued...

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