Even though the primary purpose of Ramadan is the achievement of Taqwa yet one cannot deny the various medical benefits it holds.
The Prophet (may God send His blessing and peace upon him) said, “A strong believer is better and is more beloved to God than a weak believer, and there is good in everyone.” (Muslim)
In 1994 the first International Conference on ‘Health and Fasting’ took place in Casablanca, where Muslims and non-Muslims medical experts were unanimously agreed that fasting holds a lot of medical benefits.
Here I will number some of the benefits:
1. During our fast we refrain from food and drink. For about eight hours we do not drink even a sip of water. This results in slight dehydration causing all body fluids to concentrate. When the body senses a decrease in level of any of its components it retains whatever it has of it. This conservation mechanism has been noted in plants as well. Slight dehydration and water retention have been proven as helpful in increasing the life span of a plant.
2. Giving rest to the digestive system. Ramadan is the period of rest for the digestive system, which is responsible for the metabolism process of food. Consequently, the liver also takes rest, as it is the main organ where metabolism takes place.
However, one must not ‘stuff’ themselves with food at the time of Suhur. The Prophet (may Allah’s blessings be upon him) said; “The son-of-Adam never fills a bowl worse than his belly. Some bites are enough for man to sustain his physique. Had he wished otherwise, then one third for his food, and one third for his drink, and one third for his breath.”
It was the Sunnah of the Prophet (may Allah’s blessings be upon him) to break his fast with some dates. Dates are rich in Glucose and Fructose (apart from many other elements), which have a great caloric benefit especially for the brain. The brain uses glucose to function. Glucose and Fructose are also useful in raising the level of sugar gradually in blood, thus reducing the feeling of hunger and the need for large quantities of food.
3. Moderate loss of weight. During fasting, the consumption of sugars decreases, and so does the level of sugar in blood. The body doesn’t receive any sugar during the day. But, as the saying goes that the ‘Show must go on’ the metabolic activity doesn’t halt. The energy needed (in form of broken down sugar) for the metabolic activities is provided by the sugar stored in the body (as fat depots). This results in moderate shortage of body weight. Therefore, fasting is considered of very advantageous for overweight people and stable non-insulin diabetes patients.
4. Another benefit of fasting is the healing process that begins in the body during a fast. During a fast energy is diverted away from the digestive system due to its lack of use and towards the metabolism and immune system. The healing process during a fast is precipitated by the body’s search for energy sources. Abnormal growths within the body, tumors and the like, do not have the full support of the body’s supplies and therefore are more susceptible to autolysis (The enzymatic digestion of cells by enzymes present within them. The cells most susceptible to autolysis tend to be dying or dead cells).
Furthermore, protein synthesis (production of protein for replacement of the damaged cells) occurs more efficiently because fewer errors are made by the DNA/RNA genetic controls which govern this process.” A higher efficiency in protein synthesis results in healthier cells, tissues and organs.
Interestingly, this is also the reason why animals stop eating when they are wounded, and why humans lose hunger during illnesses (flu etc.). Therefore, when one is fasting, the person is consciously diverting energy from the digestive system to the immune system.
5. Several studies proved that cholesterol level in blood during fasting, as well as the rate of precipitating on the walls of arteries have decreased. This in turn reduces the chances of cardiac and cerebrovascular mishaps, and prevents the raise of hypertension. Shortage of fats in blood helps reduce stones of gall and choledocus. The Prophet (PBUH) said; “Fast! You will be healthy.”
This isn’t all. All our religious activities have a beneficial affect on our systems. The extra prayers at night help in utilization of the food we had and thus are a good means of energy output. It has been proven that for each unit of prayer there is a usage of ten calories. Also, our joints are lubricated with the movements in prayer.
Of course we do not pray for these benefits. In fact, most of us would hardly even know about the physical benefits associated with praying.
Similarly, recitation of the Qur’an not only produces a tranquility of heart and mind, but also improves the memory and the lungs.
We have full faith in our Lord but just knowing about the benefits bestowed by Allah (‘Azza wa Jall) in every aspect of our religious activities increases our Taqwa and our gratitude for the blessings of Allah (SWT).
Hadith-e-Qudsi, Allah (SWT) says: “Fasting is for Me and I only will reward it.”
To read further about the medical benefits of fasting you may click here.