Kareem Ramadan. My heart fills with joy as Muslims around the world embark on the holy month of Ramadan today. Not only does this strengthen my spirituality, but it is also a time to become more aware of God and reflect on all of his bounties.
O you who believe that fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you that you may learn taqwa (keep yourself from evil, or be aware of God). Quran 2:183
Young is not a completely accurate translation of the Arabic word, Sawm. “Fasting” is much more than avoiding eating and drinking. The literal meaning of saw understand abstinencewhich is closer to the essence of fasting.
Besides the obvious ones, this is the month to abstain from things that are otherwise Halal, or permitted, like sex with your spouse. It is also a month to abstain from things that are normally prohibited, such as lying, gossip, but accentuated even more during the month.
It’s a month to worship our Creator, ask for forgiveness, and engage in charitable work. In fact, Muslims all over the world open their pockets and their hearts in this blessed month, and a very large portion of annual giving occurs in this month alone.
It is a month to cleanse our bodies, minds and souls – free from pollutions that may have crept into our hearts in the previous months. It is a month not only to ask for forgiveness, but also to forgive. It is a month to thank God for showing our gratitude, but also to thank others around us for showing our appreciation.
This month is all about self-mastery and controlling our desires – the desire to eat and drink, and to engage in other affairs as noted above. If we practice controlling our cravings all month, it gives us a solid platform to do good in the months that follow.
It also gives me a feeling of well-being, and even euphoria, like no other action. There are medical reasons for this, not to mention the spiritual uplift that fasting provides.
From a physical point of view, here are some tips to make your Ramadan even more enjoyable.
Health tips during fasting/Ramadan
During Ramadan, avoid:
- Too much indulgence at Suhur (start of fasting) and Iftar. This defeats the purpose of fasting and can actually backfire. Leave some space for air!
- Hot and spicy dishes and fried dishes at Suhur and Iftar, such as fries, pakoras, fried samosas, nihari and other curry-heavy dishes (apologies to my Southeast Asian friends).
- It is a diuretic and can cause dehydration. (Black) tea may be less of a problem, but it does contain caffeine. Green tea contains the least caffeine.
- Refined sugars and Sodas. Avoid drinks high in sugar. Avoid breaking the fast with orange juice, as it is acidic in nature.
- Vegetables and fruits, especially those rich in fluids and electrolytes such as watermelon, pomegranates, oranges, cucumbers and bananas (high in potassium). Dates are a good source of fiber and potassium. Drinking lemon juice also provides water and potassium.
- It helps fill you up and makes it easier to digest food to suhur more slowly rather than burning fast, which can lead to feelings of hunger at the start of fasting periods.
- White meat. Limit red meat to 1-2 times per week. Meat and fish are good sources of protein.
- Lots of liquids – water is actually preferred. Drink at least 2 liters of water between Iftar and Suhur. If you exercise or sweat a lot, you need to drink more.
Special precautions in:
- If you are diabetic, especially if you take insulin. Consult your doctor before fasting.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding. Fasting is not recommended from a medical point of view (as well as from a religious point of view).
- If you take multiple medications throughout the day, check with your doctor if fasting is feasible for you.
- If you have other serious health problems such as cardiac arrhythmias, cancer, organ transplant, kidneys, gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and liver disease. This is not an exhaustive list. If in doubt, consult your doctor.