By Salina Mohd Hamdan
Recently I met a non-Muslim doctor and she stated her concern about people fasting during the day in the month of Ramadan. My answer was simple, I said about 2 billion Muslims fast in the month of Ramadan globally and yearly, no major health issues were reported. She then kept silent.
Allah (subhana wata’aala) said in Surah Al Baqarah (183), “ O you who believe! Observing As-Saum (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it is prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqun.”
The Quran is guidance to all of mankind. If Allah (subhana wata’aala) prescribed fasting in the month of Ramadan to us, it must be good for us. And Allah knows what we do not know!
To observe fasting for 30 days is to reform us ‘body and soul’. The benefits to a person when fasting truly for the sake of Allah (subhana wata’aala) are tremendous. A person can develop taqwa. You can develop good behavior and character. Most important you can get rid of bad habits, like smoking, backbiting and slandering. When you fast, you stop feeding your body, then your soul comes to the surface and wants to do good deeds, it wants to be nourished.Thus Ramadan is like a school of taqwa and everybody get the chance to graduate and become Al-Muttaqun, as long as, you are striving towards achieving the best ibadah during Ramadan. May Allah (subhana wata’aala) help us!
The vision of Islam in all issues is moderation, including eating. Ramadan is not about food! Ramadan is all about cleansing, physically and mentally. However, most people still follow the old habits on excessive eating even though they are aware of the harm to the body and mind.
So let’s eat then during Ramadan, but the correct way! And let’s correct our intention to eat during the month of Ramadan. To get the rewards, let’s eat to be healthy in the month of Ramadan so we could do more ibadah and good deeds to feed our soul. You need to discipline yourself by controlling your food intake during Ramadan.
First of all let’s try to understand our body. When we are fasting during the day, our blood sugar level is decreasing. If you are working and having activities during the day, the level will be much lower. At this stage, the brain is saying to your body “emergency situation, starvation!” That’s why during Ramadan we have the cravings for foods. We are going nuts with foods!! During the last few minutes before Iftar, our temptation to eat is very strong. Those are the symptoms of starvation and our response is normal and we cannot control this.
But what can I do? The answer is easy! Boost your blood glucose level to curb the starvation symptoms. Traditionally, we start our Iftar with dates and a glass of water/milk. The sunnah of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) is to eat fresh dates for Iftar. It is narrated from Anas ibn Malik (radiyallaahu anhu) that the Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) used to break his fast before praying with some fresh dates; but if there were no fresh dates, he had a few dry dates, and if there were no dry dates, he took some mouthfuls of water. [Dawud: Book 13 (Fasting (Kitab Al-Siyam)) Hadith 2349].
Following our Prophet Mohammad’s (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) habit is the correct way to start our Iftar to replenish our blood glucose level. SubhanaAllah! You can also have warm honey drink and other fresh fruits to complement the starting of your Iftar. It is advisable to wait for at least half an hour before you eat your main Iftar meal. It is a good practice if you could do your Maghrib prayer during this break so that you will not perform your Maghrib prayer with a heavy stomach.
Once your blood glucose is replenished you would get rid of the cravings and you could easily control the amount of food that you eat. Remember, eat moderately and in small portions. Iftar dinner shouldn’t be too elaborate. Avoid deep-fried food and high-fat food. Junk food, soft drinks and high-sugared food are harmful to your body. If you start your Iftar with deep-fried food, your cravings will not perish and you will keep on eating until you will stuff yourself. This bad habit for 30 days in Ramadan will make you increase weight, increase the storage of fat cells, free radicals and toxins in your body. And increasing your chances of getting sick! Allah (subhana wata’aala) knows best.
Ramadan is a happy month for the Muslim not because it’s the month of food but it’s the month where the Quran was first revealed to our Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam). Fasting for a month in Ramadan is a healthy practice. It is like cleansing the body from bad eating habits for 11 months. You will get the health benefits as long as you follow the correct rules. Start your Iftar immediately once the Azhan is heard. Don’t forget to make a supplication, to ask Allah for what you desire: Paradise, forgiveness, pardon, health, and wealth. In the authentic Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “There are three whose du’a [supplication] is never rejected: the fasting person when he breaks his fast, the just ruler, and the one who is oppressed.” (Ahmad and Al-Tirmidhi).
So remember, after your Maghrib prayer, go ahead with your main Iftar dinner, but eat in small portions and eat in moderation. Eat the sahoor or pre-dawn meal, the later in the night the better. Sahoor can be a light snack, such as a glass of milk and a few dates, breakfast cereals with dried fruits or mixed sandwiches with salads. It it recommended to take sahoor every night because this small meal gives the body important nourishment which will help one endure the long fast without experiencing physical weakness. The Prophet (sallallahu ‘alayhi wa salam) said: “Eat suhoor for in suhoor there is blessing.” [Narrated by al-Bukhaari, 1923; Muslim, 1059].
About the author: Salina Mohd Hamdan is a Nutritionist with a Master of Medical Science in Human Nutrition from Sheffield University, U.K.