The Muslim world is experiencing another Ramadan, a month that rains down goodness on the body and soul. By our Lord’s leave, we are fulfilling this fine observance with patience, thanks and sincerity.
“You who believe! Fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you — so that hopefully you will have piety — for a specified number of days. But any of you who are ill or on a journey should fast a number of other days. For those who are able to fast (but with hardship), their ransom is to feed the poor. And if someone does good of his own accord, it is better for him. But that you should fast is better for you, if you only knew.” (Qur’an, 2:183-184)
We Muslims know that fasting benefits the body, and research across the world has confirmed this. Through fasting, the body, wearied over the year, has an opportunity to rest and be detoxified.
In periods of fasting, the liver starts to repeat various useful metabolic activities that it either abandons or reduces in normal times. These include the generation of glucose from other substances (gluconeogenesis), degradation of glucose reserves already stored in the liver (glycogenolysis) and accelerating the use of fat stores by breaking them down.
Since the digestive system requires less blood during fasting, more blood can be sent to other parts of the body. This also helps with the removal of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Since there is a decrease in blood volume during fasting, the heart and the veins feeding it are restored.
These are by no means all the benefits that fasting bestows on the body. The body has both sympathetic and parasympathetic autonomic nervous systems that regulate the functioning of numerous systems. The autonomic nervous system organizes the actions we perform automatically, without thinking, which include the beating of the heart, or the way our eyes are able to see objects close by or far away without loss of clarity. Compromise of the balance between the two systems may result in symptoms such as palpitations and sweating. However, fasting is an effective means of ensuring the equilibrium between the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems.
Another benefit that fasting bestows on the body is that it reduces the risk of immune system disorders. The mucous membrane of the small intestine in particular works like a filter so the body can obtain the proper nutrients and prevents larger proteins, antigens and sometimes even larger structures from entering the body. If this process takes place on a constant basis, these mucosal barriers become compromised and the filtration system then goes wrong.
In the event of autoimmune diseases, the immune system harms the body’s own tissues by functioning in an uncontrolled manner. Since the digestive system can rest during fasting, the filtration system in the gastrointestinal tract renews itself and performs its function easier, thus preventing undesirable foreign bodies from entering the body and unnecessarily stimulating the immune system.
In addition to all these benefits of fasting, it also stimulates useful enzymes in the body. When one fasts, enzyme systems concerned with the breaking down of fats are stimulated, thus becoming able to break fats down more rapidly. This active and stimulated state of enzymes persists for some time even after fasting is over. In short, fasting brings health and ease to the entire body.
In addition to all the benefits of fasting on the body, it also confers countless benefits on the soul. Believers discharge this obligation with great fervor and zeal, solely in order to earn the approval of Allah. Every day of Ramadan is filled with merit. Believers earn merit from the moment they open their eyes in the morning to the moment they close them at night.
Muslims give thanks to their Lord for every blessing in this blessed month and better appreciate the beauty of every one. They better appreciate their need for these blessings, their weakness and their reliance on Allah. Fasting in Ramadan is the key to great and heartfelt gratitude. Tasting hunger allows one to better value a piece of bread and a drop of water. Be they rich or poor, believers feel their need for blessings, value them properly and prostrate themselves in thanks.
“Everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Allah. Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy.” (Qur’an, 31:26)
“Mankind! You are the poor in need of Allah whereas Allah is the Rich Beyond Need, the Praiseworthy.” (Qur’an, 35:15)
Ramadan is a delightful and auspicious month for Muslims to calm the lower self. Muslims restrain their lower selves in this month and train them with faith. They adorn their moral values with the love, respect and self-sacrifice they show to one another. The tables that are laid are places where Allah is remembered and praised. People speak of their longing for the tables and converse of paradise. The entire Muslim world earns merit after merit throughout this month through its remembrance of Allah, acts of worship, thanks and prayers. Believers who intend to restrain their lower selves in the brief life of this world will earn their true abode in the hereafter by earning Allah’s approval. Fasting breaks the dominance of the lower self, and leads it to justice, compassion, equality, love and purity. In this way, the believers train their souls to enter paradise.
“O self at rest and at peace, return to your Lord, well-pleasing and well-pleased! Enter among My servants! Enter My garden.” (Qur’an, 89:27-30)
Adnan Oktar's piece on Arab News: