Ramadan fasting: Understanding the spiritual and physical significance of the ritual

PHOTO: Pexels

With Ramadan 2021 just around the corner, Muslims worldwide are bracing themselves to take full advantage of the blessings and mercy bestowed upon the holy month by the Almighty Creator.

Here are some of the fundamentals of Ramadan fasting 2021, rules, times, benefits, tips, and more.

When is Ramadan?

In 2021, Ramadan starts around 13 April in most Islamic countries including the UAE. A recent update made by an astronomy center in Abu Dhabi has concluded that the month of Sha’ban has begun on Monday, (March 15).

This means that Ramadan 2021 will begin either on Tuesday, April 13 or on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, depending on the length of the month of Sha’ban.

Why do Muslims fast on Ramadan?

Fasting in Ramadan is among the Five Pillars of Islam; the most important acts of worship that a Muslim must observe. These five pillars are:

  • The declaration of faith (Shahada)
  • The 5 daily prayers (Salah)
  • Fasting
  • The compulsory alms to the poor (Zakat)
  • The pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

Ramadan fasting allows Muslims to be afforded a divine pardon in which they may be granted absolution and reprieve for all their past transgressions. This enables them to return to a state of purity and starting their journey anew.

To acquire the blessings of Ramadan they must first prove themselves worthy by completing (or at least attempting to complete) the Ramadan fast. Muslims believe that by performing this month-long fast their submission to God may reach its zenith as their minds and bodies are cleansed of impurities. 

PHOTO: Unsplash

What are the rules of Ramadan fasting?

Ramadan fasting is performed for the sake of Allah and involves believers refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in husband-wife intimacy from just before sunrise to moments following the setting of the sun. 

Apart from the ‘physical’ aspect, Ramadan fasting also requires Muslims to be more engaged in spiritual contemplations and attempt to stay away from sin even more than usual. One should not speak, see, hear or do evil, as well as recognizing that a believer is solely dependent on Allah alone.

Finally, the month of Ramadan also emphasizes the social aspect. It is believed that the state of hunger and thirst experienced by Muslims will compel them to further motivate Muslims in helping others that are less fortunate and in need of charity.

Although Ramadan fasting is deemed compulsory, there are those who are exempt from this obligation. Travelers, children, the elderly, the sick and pregnant women as well as breastfeeding and menstruating women are not required to perform the fast.

ALSO READ: A diabetic's guide to fasting during Ramadan

What are the benefits of Ramadan fasting?

Science has indeed verified that there are health benefits associated with the practice of fasting ranging from weight loss to improved brain functions. Here are some of the proven positive effects of fasting.

  • Improves blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance
  • Improves health by fighting inflammation
  • May elevate heart health by improving blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels
  • May improve brain function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders
  • Aids weight loss by limiting calorie intake and boosting metabolism
  • Increases growth hormone secretion, which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength
  • May delay aging and extend longevity
  • May aid in cancer prevention and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy
PHOTO: Pexels

Ramadan fasting tips

Although fasting can be beneficial, do try to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with Ramadan fasting. 

For example, some will opt to skip the pre-dawn meal (suhoor) for whatever reason, which is unwise as it could potentially be detrimental to their health. Skipping suhoor means denying the body’s needs for nutrition and fluid; you will more than likely experience dehydration, sluggishness, lack of concentration, which may ultimately lead to you failing your fast.

PHOTO: Unsplash

Suhoor is arguably the most important element of a successful day’s fast since a well-balanced meal will provide you with the necessary energy to maintain your fitness level throughout the day. 

Ensure your suhoor meal is rich in complex carbs, vegetables and fruits, protein and above all, water.

Make sure to drink a good amount of water to keep yourself hydrated and avoid excessive thirst throughout the day. Avoid sugary water the likes of bottled juices and soft drinks because not only are they unhealthy, they also won’t help you stave off thirst for long.  

Additionally, it’s generally a good idea to minimize physical activities and avoid exerting yourself physically during a hot day.

This article was first published in Wego.