Have you ever found yourself stumbling to answer a colleague’s or friend’s questions about fasting? I can recall myself mumbling something about religion and patience. But one thing I can promise is that none of my non-Muslim friends can give an explanation which would make me proud or provide an accurate understanding of Ramadan. The truth may just be that even as Muslims, we ourselves do not completely understand the ideas behind fasting and its potential benefits. Muslims wait patiently for Ramadan and regard it as a time to think of the past months in retrospect, and consider what they wished they had done differently. But this is not the same as a New Year’s Resolution you make every January and never live up to. We make promises to our selves at the beginning of the month, and then have an entire month to fulfill our resolutions. And while normally we would give up, in this month we have conditioned ourselves to have the will to fight back against our urges.
In Ramadan we give up food, a basic human necessity, and something completely halal. It makes a person wonder, if I can give up what my body definitely needs, why cannot I stop smoking, or control my anger? If we utilize Ramadan carefully we can gain personal control, bring about change, stay committed to change, and lead overall better lives. Psychological health is essential for us to lead happy and successful lives, and a major part of that is working on our selves. By engaging in self control, we can not only abstain from food but other unsatisfactory habits. Take time to carefully consider the determinants of your problems, and discover how you personally can work to make them better, ignoring outside forces as factors. Then as the month progresses and you continue to observe self control, you will create a change in your lifestyle, one that is impacted with understanding. The last step is to stay committed throughout the year, which can be accomplished by creating smaller goals, and working to achieve them in steps. People always say you should write down your goals, but in this case you should tell someone your resolution, so that you have a check which can ensure your success. While the method may seem easy to follow sometimes we falter in actions, leading us to wonder where we can find motivation and courage.
Husain Abdullah, a football player for the Minnesota Vikings was interviewed this year by CNN for continuing to fast even while training, and he stated, “My religion is very important to me. I mean, it’s the basis of my life.”
His thoughts stem from the question, how badly do you want it? True motivation can only come from oneself, by understanding the necessity of what we want. By zoning in on what is important to us, we are able to focus on what would make us most happy and then prioritize it. Then of course the cliché where there is a will there is a way comes into play. One should always ask Allah for assistance in finding this motivation as Prophet Muhammad (SAW) stated, "There is nothing more dear to Allah than a servant praying to Him." (Tirmidhi). However, Ramadan is the perfect time to connect with others and allow them to help you as well. Having a common struggle of abstinence we are able to build feelings of community and family, especially when sitting down to iftar, or praying taraweeh. Fasting is an event that can lead you to mend or improve relations between family, friends and your community as well as contribute to your personal health.
While you continue to improve your everyday life you are also improving your chances at a healthier life. Linda Page, a neuropathic doctor states that fasting allows detoxification of the body, which can lead to an increase in energy level. Our bodies regularly store foreign substances in out body fat. When a person fasts enough to start breaking down fat-soluble substances, the stored toxins are released. In his book Triumph Over Disease, Jack Goldstein explains this process of detoxification, providing proof of decreasing toxin levels. Another obvious benefit of fasting is decreasing excess fat storage which could decrease the amount of heart problems in life. There are physical and psychological benefits that arise from fasting, when done in a manner that continues to support a healthy life style. Remember moderation in everything is necessary.
So while your primary reason for fasting should be for the sake of Allah, do not forget the wonders you can accomplish for yourself, those who surround you, and your faith.
Davis, Jeanie. "Detox Diets: Cleansing the Body." WebMD - Better Information. Better Health. Web. 26 Oct. 2011. <http://www.webmd.com>