By Andrea Useem | September 17, 2008
Ramadan is in its third week now, and the required dawn-to-dusk fasting often feels like a daily mini–marathon. By late afternoon, hunger and thirst have sucked me dry, leaving me sleepy, slow-minded, and sometimes short-tempered.
I know that the purpose of fasting is spiritual—God will reward us in the next life—but in this lifetime, fasting sometimes makes me an ineffective, irritable person. So I was excited to learn that Harvard psychiatrist John Ratey, MD, had spoken at a recent Renaissance Weekend event about how caloric restriction can improve brain function.
I emailed Dr. Ratey to find out if those benefits might extend to religious fasting, and he sent me a 2006 paper on the brain functioning of men during the Ramadan fast. The researchers studied a small group of healthy men during and after the holy month, looking at their brain activity via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). They concluded that “all individual results showed consistent and significant increase of activity in the motor cortex during fasting.”
Other research shows similar results
That research builds on the work of other scientists, including Mark Mattson, PhD, who heads a neuroscience lab at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging. Mattson has done important research on how dietary restrictions can significantly protect the brain from degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
In a 2003 article, Mattson and others reported that rats who were deprived of food every other day, or restricted to a diet at 30% to 50% of normal calorie levels, showed not only decreased heart rates and blood pressure, but also “younger” brains, with “numerous age-related changes in gene expression.”
Mattson and his colleagues also shared data from research on humans, which shows that populations with higher caloric intakes—such as the United States and Europe—have a greater prevalence of Alzheimer’s than do populations that eat less—such as China and Japan. The authors speculate that humans may have adapted to conditions of feast and famine; the stress of having little food, they write, “may induce changes in gene expression that result in adaptive changes in cellular metabolism and the increased ability of the organism to reduce stress.”
Although this research is relatively new, with many questions left unanswered, the authors conclude that “it seems a safe bet that if people would incorporate a spartan approach to food intake into their lifestyles, this would greatly reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and stroke.” (Of course, how this recommendation translates for individual people remains almost a complete unknown; consult with your own doctor before restricting your diet in dramatic ways.)
But here’s the hard part: Although we know eating too much leads to all sorts of health problems, “it has proven very difficult to successfully implement prolonged dietary-restriction regimens,” reports Mattson and his team. Information and doctor’s orders are rarely enough motivation.
This last observation gave me hope, because it seemed the authors were overlooking the role of religion; it can inspire people in ways information or experts don’t. Would I be undergoing this rigorous month of fasting unless I believed strongly it was the right thing for me to do? Probably not. And the same goes for millions of Muslims around the world.
And many other religions include fasting or dietary restrictions as part of their religious observances. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, for example, fast one Sunday a month. The Orthodox Church in America notes five separate fasting seasons on its website, in addition to individual fast days; during some of these fasts, all food is restricted, and during other fasts, only certain foods are off-limits. Some Roman Catholics abstain from meat on Fridays, and all do during Lent. Many types of Buddhist monks abide by a code that prohibits eating after noon each day.
Science may only now be discovering that some of these religious practices, both ancient and modern, offer nourishment not just for the soul, but for the body as well.
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Ramadan is the month of fasting, standing, generosity, self-evaluation, patience and the Qur’aan. Indeed there are many groups and paths regarding the month of Ramadan. Let’s see which group we belong to.
The first group:
is a group that sees Ramadan as a time of restrictions and preventions; a time of prohibitions from desires and lust. They do not comprehend the benefits of Ramadan. You will find them lazy and tired. They fast with great difficulties while continuing in backbiting, lying and other sins. They see the fast as nothing more than an obstacle in front of their desires.
As for the second group:
it is a group that sees the month of amadan as a month of food and drink. Most of their time is consumed going and coming from the grocery store purchasing food for themselves, families and guests. Ramadan doesn’t increase them except in appetite. We know that consuming lots of foods will cause fatigue and laziness. The worst thing that the sons of Adam can fill is their stomachs. In addition, some from amongst them actually gain weight in Ramadan.
As for the third group:
they know nothing of Ramadan except that it is obligatory. Neither the days nor the nights are spent in worship rather they might not even perform the five daily prayers. They awaken with Allah’s displeasure and sleep with Allah’s displeasure.
As for the fourth group:
it is a group who does not know Allah except and until the month of Ramadan. They attend the Jumu’ah prayer, frequent the Masjid and the women wear the hijaab for the duration of Ramadan. And when the month is over all of those good deeds come to end, that is until the next Ramadan.
As for the fifth group:
this group is a group who can not wait for the arrival of Ramadan. And when it comes they roll up their sleeves even more and they work as hard as they can. This month rejuvenates and strengthens them.
Evaluate yourself. Which group do you belong to?
Source – Al Haadi
Fasting is a shield [Bukhari]
Fasting is a shield for a person which protects them from Shaytan, Allah’s punishment and Jahannam. However, one needs to make sure the shield is not damaged in any way. Otherwise it will not be effective in doing its job. The actions that damage this shield and render it useless are sins like Backbiting, Lying, Evil Glance, Swearing, Nonsensical Conversation, Arguments, Slander, Haram Sustenance, and every other evil.
Besides the compulsory fasting in the month of Ramadan, one should try to fast during those days for which Rasoolullah (صلي الله عليه و سلم) has mentioned many rewards, for example:
- 6 days of Shawwal
- Day of Aarafah
- Ashoora (9th & 10th or 10th & 11th of Muharram)
Source: Riyadul Jannah Issue 2 Vol 13
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Shaykh Hassan Ali suggests four things we can do on Laylatul Qadr which will make you amongst the richest people in the hereafter.
by Hazrat Muhammad Farouq Sahib
Fulfil one’s I’tikaaf in such a Masjid wherein the five daily Salaah is offered. A Masjid in terms of the Shariah. By means of this act Allah Ta’ala has granted us solitude while in a gathering. What more can be said!
Two Haj and two Umrah, by means of a single days I’tikaaf, how far is one removed from Jahannum? A distance of five hundred years. Brothers! What we all desire and need is to be distanced from Jahannum and closeness to paradise.
Another amazing point is the fact that one who is waiting for Salaah is granted the rewards of being in Salaah. It is as if the person forming the intention for I’tikaaf has begun Salaah on the eve of the twentieth of Ramadaan and remains engaged in this Salaah for a full ten days and nights, till the sighting of the crescent for Eid after which he turns for Salaam and completes his Salaah. While fast asleep, he is in Salaah! While wide a wake, he is in Salaah! While eating, he is in Salaah! While drinking, he is in Salaah! At every instant during his stay in the Masjid he is in Salaah. At times this is actually so while at other times he is allegorically so. We beseech Allah Ta’ala to grant us the abundant Taufeeq for these actions to be performed during Ramadaan and that He make them easy for us and assist us therein.
O Allah! We are weak and helpless. We are assailed by different forms of illnesses. O Allah! Provide us with Your assistance from the unseen whereby we can imbibe all these aspects within us. Let us engage in the abundant recitation of the Quraan as in the case of Hazrat Raipuri who gave up all his correspondence as well as meeting people and was either occupied in fasting or recitation of the Quraan. This cycle continued over and over every day of the entire month. We beseech Allah Ta’ala to grant such devotion to us as well, along with I’tikaaf during the last ten days.
O Allah! Grant abundant Taufeeq to us as well as to our children and the other members of our household. O Allah! Grant us the Taufeeq to spend Ramadaan in keeping with the Sunnah as discussed. Grant us the Taufeeq to spend Ramadaan in the shadows of Your accepted servants, Ameen.
Source: Darul Uloom Al-Islamiyya , Port Elizabeth South Africa
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The month of Ramadhan enjoys and intrinsic superiority over all the other months of the year. Likewise, it’s last ‘Ashra or ten days are superior to the two earlier ‘Ashras, and laylatul Qadr or the Night of Power, generally, falls in it. That is why, the sacred Prophet (peace & blessings upon him) devoted himself more intensively to prayer and other forms of worship during it and urged others, also, to do the same.
Ayesha (RA) related to us that “the Apostle of Allah (peace & blessings upon him)strove harder and took greater pains to observe prayer etc., during the last ten days of Ramadhan than during the other days.” [Muslim]
It is related by Ayesha (RA) that “when the last ten days of Ramadhan began the Apostle of Allah (peace & blessings upon him) would gird up the loins and keep awake in the nights (i.e., he used to spend the whole of the nights in prayer and worship), and, also, wakened the members of his family (so that they, too, could partake of the blessings of the nights of that month).” [Bukhari]
Source: Meaning and Messages of the traditions
by Shaykh Mohammad Manzoor Nomani
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The month of Ramadhán is always a memorable month. This is that special month in the Islámic calendar that causes Muslims all over the world to re-invigorate their ímán. No matter what the condition of the Muslim is, this individual finds it easy to give up bad habits and make more ‘Ibádat in the blessed month.
Maulana Maseehuallah Khan
This is why I love Ramadhan!
Shukran to the writer
Morale: Don’t rebuke any1 who turns up at mosque in Ramadhan only
Via: Shaykh Abdul Raheem
Love Ramadan for others just as you love it for yourself and rather than rebuking or scolding someone, make sincere du’a for them.