The diversity between cultures is a blessing that we need to be grateful for every day. There are a lot of lifestyles, beliefs, and notions in this world, allowing you to adopt whatever feels most right for you. And, interestingly, despite the great differences, some things are actually more similar than many people tend to realise.
Islam is the religion of a great population around the world, with the majority being centred in the Middle East and the Arab region. One of the things that Islam shares with other religions and cultures is fasting, yet it can take different forms in each of them. Despite the bad reputation it has, especially in spots around the world where it is not common practice, Islam offers great parts to humanity on spiritual, physical, and mental levels.
Fasting in Islam pretty much resembles today’s most popular diet which is known as intermittent fasting. In fact, if we look a little closer, we will realise that it shares great similarities with other cultures in the world. While this is such a big statement to make, today we are shedding the light, in particular, on the idea of fasting in Islam.
An Overview of Fasting in Islam
Fasting happens to be part of every holy religion, and Islam is no exception. It is one of the main five pillars of Islam, where you cannot actually be a full Muslim if fasting is not part of your beliefs. According to the Quran, fasting is required by those who are mature enough and healthy to fast for a full day. However, people with health complications can refrain from this practice if it affects their well-being.
Fasting in Islam is more than just refraining from food and drink. In fact, a fasting Muslim should also abstain from acts of fornication, smoking, cursing, or engaging in any behaviour that is ethically or morally questionable.
The main purpose of fasting in Islam is to get closer to God by training ourselves to be more compassionate, controlled, and merciful. In other words, fasting in Islam is ought to teach a Muslim the acts of righteousness, stirring away from sinful deeds, and not being tempted by one’s primary instincts.
The Rules of Fasting in Islam
Every year, Muslims are required to fast through the holy month of Ramadan. It is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and the date on which Ramadan starts is determined every year according to the lunar calendar.
Once this month starts, every Muslim starts fasting from dawn, during Fajr prayers, till dusk, and during the Maghreb prayers (sunset). The fasting hours, definitely, change from one country to another, depending on the time zone.
During this month, you can sense great spiritual vibes and unity. People go about their lives throughout their day with food and drinks off of their minds, allowing them to focus more on their inner selves. When the Maghreb prayers are on, everyone gathers around the table for the very same purpose. In Muslim countries, you will find the streets utterly empty and tranquil during this time.
Ramadan is not the only time when Muslims fast, but there are actually more days where fasting is desirable but not obligatory. Those days include any six days that you pick during Shawwal, the month that follows Ramadan. Arafah Day, the 9th day of Dhul Hijjah month is also desirable to fast on. Fasting on Mondays and Thursdays throughout the year is one of the desirable acts in Islam that also happens to resemble the 5:2 fasting method.
The Differences and Similarities between Fasting in Islam and Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting is one of the most famous diets today. It has taken the diet industry by storm once its great health benefits were proven. Science has proclaimed that cutting foods for certain hours throughout the day puts your body into a ketosis state. It is a state where the body produces ketones, relying on stored fat as the primary fuel instead of glucose.
When this happens, your body’s function is optimised as multiple toxins are being flushed out of your body, allowing your organs to function much better. Needless to say, you will lose tons of excess fat along the process and feel much lighter and healthier.
Long before this diet came into the picture, Islam introduced fasting. It is a principal pillar of being a practice Muslim. And while intermittent fasting mainly focuses on weight loss and physical health benefits, fasting in Islam offers more than just that. Fasting in Islam is also about feeding your inner soul, learning to fight off your temptations, being compassionate towards the poor, and getting closer to God.
The similarity in which intermittent fasting and fasting in Islam actually meet is the requirement to fast for hours longer than your eating window. This seems to be hard for everyone at the beginning but it gets much easier when your body gets used to fasting. Even Muslim children are capable of fasting for long hours once they reach puberty.
The Main Difference between Fasting in Islam and IF
What actually puts both forms of fasting apart is that the Islamic version seems to more challenging to follow. In intermittent fasting, you are allowed to have sugar-free drinks throughout your fasting window as long as it doesn’t spike your sugar levels. However, fasting in Islam means that you don’t even consume water during your fasting window.
They may sound a little extreme to many people, but this proves that Islamic fasting is about more than reaping just physical benefits. In fact, it teaches Muslim practitioners self-control and having a will of steel, where you train your mind to be a lot stronger than your instincts and temptations. Once you get used to it after quite some time, it actually becomes like second nature.
10 Great Benefits of Fasting
Fasting has more benefits to reap if you keep practising it long enough. It goes way beyond just cutting off food and drink for quite some time. There are other dimensions to fasting that include benefits on physical, mental, and spiritual levels. Here are some of the great advantages of fasting that your body and mind will definitely thank you for:
Consuming foods high in fat and carbs content for quite some time slows down your gut performance. Fasting for prolonged hours aids your body to flush out the accumulated toxins, especially the ones residing in your digestive tract. It is a detoxifying process that gives your gut the time it needs to heal and function better, resulting in faster metabolism and a much better digestion process.
Fasting in Islam can force your body to shed some excess pounds since you make the commitment of staying away from food and drink for the specified hours. Going for long hours with an empty stomach can allow your body to produce ketones and get into what is known as the ketosis state. This state shifts your body’s reliance on glucose as the primary source of energy to relying on stored fat cells.
Besides, eating within a certain time frame automatically puts your body in a caloric deficit. As long as you make better food choices during your eating hours, you will find yourself consuming fewer calories and thus losing weight.
Regulates Levels of Cholesterol and Blood Pressure
Luckily, science has proven that fasting enhances your body’s overall performance. Such improvements include reducing your levels of cholesterol and regulating blood pressure. Throughout Ramadan, most fasters have reported experiencing temporary low blood pressure. In fact, such decline is not of any danger to healthy people and is actually beneficial for those who suffer from hypertension.
It is important to note that starvation and dehydration can worsen your symptoms of low blood pressure. That is why it is always recommended to consume enough water and stay hydrated during your eating window in Ramadan.
Boosts Brain Function
Fasting in Islam promises great benefits to your overall health and science has actually backed up these claims. Another benefit that fasting in Islam offers is boosting the way your brain functions. Once your body is adapted to fasting, your brain starts getting clearer and better. You will even notice great improvements in the quality of your sleep and your mood.
Our bodies are designed to release toxins and clean our bloodstream for better function. However, with today’s abundance of junk food and binge eating, the body barely gets the chance to do its work when we are constantly filling it with high-calorie food and no nutritional value.
When we fast, the cleansing process takes place, giving a good rest to your organs and urging them to function better. This doesn’t only impact our body, but it has a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing as well. A cleaner bloodstream and better functioning digestive system play a great role in elevating your mood and making you feel better.
When an offending agent, like a virus or bacteria, resides within your body, your immune system starts activating to fight it off. Over time, this can take a great toll on your immunity, putting your health in jeopardy and stimulating inflammation across your body. It also works the other way around, when your body detects inflammation, it starts working up your immune system.
Going into this state of fighting for a prolonged period can weaken your body’s defence mechanism, making it prone to even more health issues. That is when fasting weighs in to do its magic. Research studies have proclaimed that fasting aids in reducing oxidative stress which, in turn, lowers the body’s inflammation significantly.
Helps You Become More Spiritual
Fasting in Islam has this great purpose of letting one grow spiritually and closer to God. It builds a sturdy connection with your surrounding environment by emptying your stomach and letting your brain do its work without being clouded by other bodily functions. Another benefit of fasting in Islam is that it makes you feel more in harmony with your emotions and thoughts. And that is actually one of the greatest purposes of fasting.
Fasting in Islam doesn’t just revolve around reducing food or restricting it for quite some time. It has so much greater purposes that include elevating one’s self-discipline and giving them a wider perspective of the world. Ramadan fasting gives you the opportunity to feel how poverty and lack of food can feel like. It strengthens your sense of compassion and compels you to help more of those in need.
Fasting in Islam is an actual therapy to the body, mind, and even soul. When you take the time to invest in purifying your body and mind, you will grow as a person who has great tolerance and acceptance of those around you.