Muslim Health During Ramadan
Ramadhan is always the time of year when most Muslims turn to thoughts of gaining reward and gaining Allah’s (SWT) repentance for the previous year’s actions. Most of us use the time to stock up on Iman for the forthcoming year’s trials in the hope that it will see us through to the next Ramadhan. The whole time becomes heavily spiritual and allows us to reconnect to Allah (SWT) but, Islam is about balance not extremes.
Muslims very often completely forget that Ramadhan is about reconnecting your spirituality to your life, all of it. This lopsided behaviour becomes so evident during Ramadhan that what is meant to be an uplifting re-calibration of heart, body and mind turns into a spiritual feast for the heart or so they think. The body gets neglected and is even treated worse during Ramadhan. The physical benefits of fasting are many but the benefits come with observing the etiquettes of the Sunnah.
Having a light suhur in the morning allows your body to cope with the hunger during the day. Some of us use the suhur to completely remove any possibility of walking after eating it, not to mention feeling any hunger. This attitude and practice can virtually remove the spiritual benefits of the fast. The Prophet (SAW) stressed that having something to eat at suhur is essential. This will have psychological benefits too because you will have had something to eat within the same day and not be left with memories of food from the previous day. This will help to keep your thoughts positive towards the fast rather than negatively “just wanting it out of the way.”
The other extreme is the revenge on the body for making you feel hunger. This happens at Iftar time when the Muslims stuff themselves with as much food as they can because their body made them feel “really tired and starving.” This equally removes some of the spiritual benefit because sharing the pain of your brothers and sisters who have very little or nothing to eat means when you do break your fast you do so moderately, holding back and observing the Sunnah of one third food, one third drink and one third air.
“The son of Adam does not fill any vessel worse than his stomach. It is sufficient for the son of Adam to eat a few mouthfuls, to keep him going. If he must do that (fill his stomach), then let him fill one third with food, one third with drink and one third with air.” Narrated by al-Tirmidhi (1381), Ibn Maajah (3349); classed as saheeh by al-Albaani in al-Silsilah al-Saheehah (2265).
“The believer eats in one stomach whilst the kaafir eats in seven.” Narrated by al-Bukhaari (5081) and Muslim (2060).
As you will find over the course of the first week your stomach will have begun to shrink and the sheer amount of food you can fit into your stomach becomes heavily reduced. So, the above policies will now be doing more harm than good.
The other issue is the type of food we eat around Ramadhan. Traditionally we would have lots of sweets and fried food, kebabs, shwarmas, curries and all those goodies. The problem is we now eat like Ramadhan all year round. Our diet has become heavily secularised that we have lost the adab of food discipline. The beauty of holding back is that the times when you don’t hold back are heightened and special and become a treat. This loss of food adab is resulting in an epidemic of obesity in our children and year on year rise in heart disease, diabetes inter alia among the adult Muslim population. So, the way we eat during Ramadhan only adds to the bodies problems continually created throughout the year.
It goes without saying that the fitter the body going into Ramadhan the better it is equipped to deal with it. We should be adhering to the Sunnah throughout the year and living healthier, more balanced lives everyday rather than this mixed up feast and famine method. It is just another example of Muslims living without adab in the greater sense. Islam is about balance and Ramadhan is about restoring that balance in our lives so that we continue the balance throughout the year.