Ramadan: A Blessed Month

Amongst the five pillars of Islam, fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan not only carries a unique significance, but is also obligatory upon the believing men and women. According to a Sahih hadith narrated by Abu Hurarira (Radiullaho anhu), Allah’s Messenger ؑﷺ  said, “Allah said,

All the deeds of Adam’s son (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I shall give the reward for it”
[Sahih Al Bukhari: 128]

There are many reasons for the virtue of Ramadan. Firstly, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) made fasting obligatory in this month as a pillar of Islam. Secondly, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) revealed the Qur’an. Thirdly, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) makes us witness Laylat-ul-Qadr in this month, which is better than a thousand months. Also during this month, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) opens the gates of Paradise and closes the gates of hell and chains the devils. It is narrated by Abu Huraira (Radiullaho anhu) that the Prophet ﷺ  said,

When Ramadan comes, the gates of paradise are opened and the gates of hell are closed, and the devils are chained up.”
[Al Bukhari, 1898 &Muslim, 1079]

Fasting and its importance

Apart from the fard (obligatory) fasting during the month of Ramadan, Muslims are also encouraged to observe the non-obligatory or voluntary fasts throughout the year. It is an amazing form of worship that brings a believer closer to Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and enhances an individual’s level of taqwa (fear of Allah). As mentioned in the Holy Qur’an by Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ):

يٰٓاَيُّهَا الَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا كُتِبَ عَلَيْكُمُ الصِّيَامُ كَمَا كُتِبَ عَلَي الَّذِيْنَ مِنْ قَبْلِكُمْ لَعَلَّكُمْ تَتَّقُوْنَ  

“O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqûn (the pious)”
[Surah Al Baqara: 183]

Also, amongst the virtues of fasting during Ramadan is purification from previous sins. It is mentioned in a Sahih Hadith narrated by Abu Huraira (radiullaho anhu) that the Prophet ﷺ  said,

“Whoever established prayers on the night of Qadr out of sincere faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven; and whoever fasts in the month of Ramadan out of sincere faith, and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven.”
[Sahih Al Bukhari: 125]

Why do we fast?

Like every other form of prescribed worship, we as Muslims observe fasting during the month of Ramadan because Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) has commanded us to do so. As believers we must hasten to obey the commands of Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) and His Messenger ﷺ .

Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says in the Holy Quran,

اِنَّمَا كَانَ قَوْلَ الْمُؤْمِنِيْنَ اِذَا دُعُوْٓا اِلَى اللّٰهِ وَرَسُوْلِهٖ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَهُمْ اَنْ يَّقُوْلُوْا سَمِعْنَا وَاَطَعْنَا  ۭ وَاُولٰۗىِٕكَ هُمُ الْمُفْلِحُوْن

 “The only saying of the faithful believers, when they are called to Allâh (His Words, the Qur’ân) and His Messenger to judge between them, is that they say: “We hear and we obey.” And such are the successful (who will live forever in Paradise)
[Surah  An-Nur: 51]

Keeping the above mentioned point in mind is extremely important while we consider the medical science’s perspective on fasting. It is imperative to clarify that any worldly benefits, medical or otherwise, should not be a motivating factor for a believer to worship Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ). Otherwise that would nullify the validity of a particular form of worship and pollute the purity of one’s intention.  It was narrated by Umar bin Al-Khattab (Radiullaho anhu) that He heard Allah’s Messenger ﷺ  saying:

“The reward of deeds depends upon the intentions and every person will get the reward according to what he has intended. So whoever emigrated for worldly benefits or for a woman to marry, his emigration was for what he emigrated for”.
[Sahih Al Bukhari: 1]

Fasting – A Perspective from medical science

The last fifty years or so have seen tremendous advancement in medical science. Extensive research has not only enabled the development of effective medication and safer surgical procedures, but has also aided in identifying the potential benefits and risks arising from various human behaviors and lifestyle choices. 

The topic of fasting has also solicited a great deal of interest from medical researchers and practitioners. Medical professionals, particularly those from a non-Muslim background appear to be fascinated by the benefits that arise from fasting. As Muslims however, these benefits merely serve to strengthen our faith that following each of Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ)’s commandments will not only purify our worldly existence, but also make our life in the hereafter one of bliss and permanent joy. 

  • According to doctors, as a result of the human body not getting its energy from food while fasting, it dips into glucose that is stored in the liver and muscles, once this stored glucose has been used up; the body then begins to burn fat as a source of energy, which can result in weight loss. Dr.Razeen Mahroof, from the renowned Oxford University in the U.K, argues that “the use of fat for energy can help preserve muscle and reduce cholesterol levels”. He also suggests that after a few days of fasting a “detoxification process also occurs, because any toxins stored in the body’s fat are dissolved and removed from the body”.
  • Similar benefits of fasting have been highlighted in an article published by United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS). It suggests that fasting during the blessed month of Ramadan provides a “gentle transition from using glucose as the main source of energy, to using fat” that not only prevents the breakdown of muscles for protein but also aids in weight loss. A loss in additional body weight can accrue other health benefits like reduced cholesterol and blood pressure levels and a controlled diabetes regime.
  • Fasting can also lead to normalization in ghrelin levels. Ghrelin is known as the hunger hormone because it informs our body that it is hungry. When we fast the “ghrelin levels in our body normalize, so it actually becomes more accurate in telling us if we should really eat, or leave off having an unnecessary snack until later”.
  • Fasting has also proven to be an effective tool in decreasing levels of bad cholesterol in the body, this in return greatly reduces the chances of becoming prone to chronic heart diseases.

Conclusion

We follow a religion, which by the grace of Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) provisions a complete code of life. The many medical benefits of fasting as discussed in this article are merely an illustration of the above statement. While as believers, the various acts of prescribed worship are done purely to attain Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ)’s pleasure and to follow in the footsteps of His Messenger ﷺ , yet in return they are also making our worldly life more peaceful, healthier and content.

What the medical science has proved in recent times regarding the benefits of periodic abstinence from food and drink via the fasting route was foretold to us by our beloved Messenger ﷺ  fourteen hundred years ago. And indeed the Prophet ﷺ  only spoke from what Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) commanded. As mentioned in the Holy Qur’an, Allah (عَزَّوَجَلَّ) says:

اِنْ هُوَ اِلَّا وَحْيٌ يُّوْحٰى 
وَمَا يَنْطِقُ عَنِ الْهَوٰى

“Nor does He speak of (his own) desire. (3)
It is only a Revelation revealed. (4)
 [Surah An-Najm: 3-4]

It was narrated by Ibn Umar (Radiullaho anhu) that the Prophetﷺ  said:

“A believer eats in one intestine (is satisfied with a little food), and a kafir (unbeliever) or a hypocrite eats in seven intestines (eats too much).”
[Sahih Al-Bukhari: 306].

In another hadith, it was narrated by Miqdam ibn Ma’d (Radiullaho anhu) that he heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ   saying that:

“A man does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat enough to keep him alive. But if he must do that, then one-third for his food, one-third for his drink and one-third for his air.”
(AtTirmidhi: 2380; Ibn Maajah, 3349)

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