By N. Muhammed Favas
The Holy Ramadan rejoices the ecstasy of spirituality, disdaining the sophisticated materialist dealings to an extent. As far as Muslims are concerned, it is a month which stands for rejuvenation, reflection, and emancipation. The fasting during Ramadan is entirely different from the fasting of other religious groups or medical hubs because of its scientific and psychological basis. People in Kerala celebrate the Ramadan without completely knowing about its psychological or medical basis. They fast mostly because it is a legacy handed down by their ancestors as an unconscious religio-cultural practice, the way it is done in other parts of the world.
In 1996, an International conference was held in Casablanca, Morocco, on Ramadan and Health, which showcased various studies on fasting and its benefits to human body and mind. During the conference, the doctors and medical representatives from across the globe opined on the merits of fasting, which accelerates the functioning of human body. Dr. Soliman, from Jordan, concluded from his keen observation of several fasting Muslims in his region that there is no adverse effect in the substances such as cortisol, electrolytes, testosterone, cholesterol or triglycerides. Responding to concerns, raised by the anti-fasting spokesmen, that there was a reduction in serum glucose while fasting, Dr. Azizi, who hails from Iran, pointed out that there would be a decrease in serum glucose at the first half of Ramadan, but it would become steady by the arrival of the second half. He proved his argument by submitting his report of experiment to the jury of the conference. Dr. Ching, from Malaysia, proposed that there tended to be a fall in fructosamine and total protein ratio without causing hypoglycemia.
On the ground of regulation of metabolism of human body during fasting, The Renegade Pharmacist counts six major functions which act as catalysts in the betterment of human body.
- Fasting makes the insulin level in blood stable
- It provides more energy and enthusiasm
- It reduces the risk of chronic diseases and obesity
- It stops the sugar cravings and hunger pangs
- It accelerates the growth hormone
- It boosts the brain function (a combined study by Bronwen Martin, Mark P. Mattson, and Stuart Maudsley suggests this). It is because of this that the Islamic scholars always suggest the reading of the Quran and other religious texts during this month.
The prayers after dinner help to metabolize the food, enabling inner peace and tranquility. Imam Ghazali states in his profound book, Ihya Ul Uloom Ud Deen, that fasting is the weightiest way to embrace the Almighty. He also puts forward the beneficial elements of diet, as what modern science does now. While engaging with religious duties during the month, the heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure become normal and steady. A study, prepared by Mohammadi M.R. and Larijani B., argues that there is a decrease in anxiety and depression at the end of Ramadan.
As emotional intelligence varies over time and space, it is proven that Ramadan contributes in stabilizing and managing human emotions. Borrowing from modern theories of self-control like those of Higgins (1987) and Bandura (1986, 1991), we could say that fasting during Ramadan helps close the gap between the actual self and ideal self. Ramadan plays a pivotal role in the human mind expansionism process. By giving up sexual contact and regulation of food, self-control is exerted. Since Muslims are expected to refrain from backbiting, lying, unnecessary hullabaloo, gossiping during Ramadan, it further institutes control over self, as is explicated in Irish writer Tamim Mobayed’s study, ‘The psychology of self-control and potential benefits of fasting’.
The World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2017 says that the world hunger is again on the rise because of climate change, conflict, and population hike. About 815 million people or 11 percent of population across the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition. One of the core remedies which was proposed by WHO is the maintenance of food security. The act of fasting during Ramadan, in a sense, recreates a sense of solidarity and fraternity among the hungry and needy people. Also, it acts as a catalyst in the food security process. A. Toledo’s study, ‘Bio diversity and nutrition: A common path towards global food security and sustainable development’, states that sustainable development is possible through food security. Therefore, fasting during Ramadan is an act of attaining sustainable development across the world.
To conclude, while fasting during Ramadan is a splendid symbol of obedience to the omnipotent God and a great way to embrace the Almighty, it also imparts nourishment to our mind and body on the ground of its medical and psychological benefits. After all, it is one of the profound ways to attain sustainable development by the regulation of food security.
N. Muhammed Favas is a research intern at Madeenathunnoor College of Islamic Science, Calicut, Kerala. His areas of interest include Indian Muslims, Islamic discourse, Transnational Islam, subaltern studies, anthropology, etc. He could be reached at email@example.com
Cafe Dissensus Everyday is the blog of Cafe Dissensus magazine, based in New York City, USA. All materials on the site are protected under Creative Commons License.
Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine on ‘Women as the ‘displaced’: The context of South Asia’, edited by Suranjana Choudhury, academic and Nabanita Sengupta, academic, India.