What comes to your mind when you think of Ramazan? Some of you associate this month of fasting with lips parched with thirst and a stomach growling for want of food. Others do not find fasting as difficult and look forward to the mouth-watering pakoras, samosas, fruit chaats and other goodies mummy prepares so lovingly in Ramazan.
Only the more compassionate among us will feel a surging sense of sympathy for the less privileged around us, and how hunger for them is not an option but a part of daily life!
The holy month of Ramazan brings with it countless blessings for us. As you all know, fasting is the third pillar of Islam. Much is written and said about the spiritual blessings of this sacred month and how most of us come out of this month a better and more considerate person.
There can be no two opinions about the spiritual gains of this month, but before I write about them, I would like my friends to know about some additional benefits as well.
Physical benefits of fasting
While we all consider fasting a religious obligation, only a few of us have an idea about the physical benefits we derive from it. Fasting is a healthy practice, but only if properly implemented. It promotes elimination of toxins from the body, making the internal organs healthier.
When we are fasting, the digestive organs get proper time to rest instead of being constantly at work when we go about eating all day. The enzymes, which are required to break down the food we consume, get more concentrated as they do not have to work on the junk food most of us habitually munch on. This leads to better absorption of the nutrients in the food we eat at iftar.
Some experts assert that fasting promotes resolution of inflammatory diseases and allergies. It reduces production of insulin and the pancreas has to work less. Another benefit of fasting is that it tends to bring down blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Fasting also helps to reduce excessive body weight. The first response of the body to fasting is the breakdown of glucose. When the store of glucose is exhausted, ketosis begins. This is the breakdown of fats stored in our body to release energy. And this in turn brings down our body weight.
It has been observed that fasting reduces craving for processed foods. It promotes the desire for natural foods, especially water and fruits. Fruits increase the body’s store of essential vitamins and minerals. Vitamins A and E are good antioxidants, which help to boost our immune system.
Fasting promotes healthy eating habits and a healthy lifestyle. Although we all love the fried snacks which are usually a part of our iftar meals, we should be particular about not overeating them. Try your best to avoid too rich and oily food items and opt for natural food and a lot of liquids instead. By sticking to a balanced diet in Ramazan, we can derive the maximum physical benefits from fasting.
The holy month of Ramazan comes as a blessing for us, as it enhances our moral values. We learn to be more compassionate towards the needy people around us who often go hungry. They may be fasting too, but hardly have enough food for sehr and iftar. By giving away as much alms as we can (or when our parents do so), we learn to care and share with others in need.
We also feel empathy for the fasting helpers in our home and try our best not to burden them with unnecessary workload. Out of compassion for them, we perform many personal chores ourselves, (something we do not habitually do) to make their fast easier for them.
Try to nurture these feelings of sympathy even after Ramazan, so that we are a better and more considerate person throughout the year.
If you observe closely, you will find how people with financial needs look forward to Ramazan and the economical assistance it brings for them. People usually give away a major part of their zakat in this month. As you all know zakat, the fourth pillar of Islam, is a fixed percentage of our wealth, which is obligatory for all affluent Muslims to distribute among the poor on a yearly basis.
During this blessed month, even the underprivileged manage to have wholesome meals as many people give away provisions for the whole month. They happily buy new clothes, shoes and other items of necessity from the money they receive from their well-off Muslim brethren, luxuries which they cannot afford otherwise. Debts are cleared, entrepreneurs set up small businesses and hard-up parents usually plan weddings of their children from these donations and alms. NGOs doing complimentary social work also depend heavily on the funds they receive during Ramazan.
Ramazan is the perfect time to strengthen ties with our family. In the fast-paced lives we all lead, during the normal months, we seldom have meals together or do so in a rush.
Ramazan is the month when all gather at the iftar table before the call for the Maghrib prayers. We talk more to each other, share our day to day activities, while parents and grandparents will have some quick word of advice or stories of their own to share.
Boys are usually particular about praying with the congregation during Ramazan. They also go to the mosque with their fathers for Taraweeh prayers. This helps them to be better acquainted with the neighbours and make new friends. Some mosques have arrangements for ladies also.
Sending trays of iftar snacks to neighbours is something most of us practice. This promotes a feeling of goodwill and often becomes the reason to strike a new friendship.
Iftar parties also help us to connect with relatives and friends. This strengthens our social ties with them.
Spiritual benefits Last (but by no means the least), are the unending spiritual benefits of this sacred month.
The Holy Quran says:
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may learn piety and righteousness” (2:183).
Fasting is not only abstaining from food and drink, it also teaches us to keep away from all bad deeds. We shun quarrels, unnecessary talking, telling lies and learn to exercise self-restraint in all walks of life.
Fasting inculcates in us a natural desire to perform good deeds. We feel closer to our creator and often take out time to ponder on the message of the Holy Quran as we recite it more during Ramazan. Fasting is a blessing in disguise for those of us who are irregular in your daily prayers. As the holy month starts, resolve that we will pray five times daily even when it is over.
The blessings of Ramazan are innumerable and I have tried my best to emphasise on those which my young friends can comprehend easily. In the end, I would like to quote two Hadiths about this month, so that you can understand the unbounded bounties of Ramazan.
“Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High Says, ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.’ For the fasting person, there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk.” [Imam Bukhari]
In another Hadith, the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) says, “Ramazan has come to you. (It is) a month of blessing, in which Allah covers you with blessing, for He sends down Mercy, decreases sins and answers prayers. In it, Allah looks at your competition (in good deeds), and boasts about you to His angels. So show Allah goodness from yourselves, for the unfortunate one is he who is deprived in (this month) of the mercy of Allah, the Mighty, the Exalted.” [Imam Tabarani]
A very happy and blessed Ramazan to all of you with prayers that Allah accepts our fasts, forgives our sins, guides us to the right path and brings all of us closer to Him, not only in this month but always! Ameen.
Published in Dawn, Young World, May 19th, 2018