At the onset of Ramadan Muslims
all over the world start fasting from dawn to dusk daily for 30 days as ordained
in Quran.

"O you who believe fasting is
prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you can learn
Taqwa" (Quran 2:183)

The Arabic word Taqwa is
translated in many ways including God consciousness, God fearing, piety, and
self restraining. Thus we are asked to fast daily for one month from dawn to
dusk and avoid food, water, *** and vulgar talk during that period.

But why do we need to fast? It is
our experience that temptations and ways of the world tend to spoil our purity
and austerity. Thus we indulge in food all of the time, snacking and nibbling
the whole day, heading to obesity. We drink too much coffee, or tea, or
carbonated drinks. Some ***aholics can not stay away from *** unless they do it
at least once or more a day. When we argue, we leave our decency aside and
resort to vulgar talk and even physical fighting.

Now when one is fasting, he or she
cannot do all of that. When he looks at the mouth watering food, he cannot even
taste it and he has to give up snacking and nibbling as well as smoking
cigarettes if he does. No constant coffee, tea or Coke drinking either. ***ual
passions have to be curtailed and when he is provoked to fight, he says " I
am fasting that I cannot respond to your provocation". To achieve God
consciousness or God nearness, a better word, we are advised to do additional
prayer and read the Quran.

Medical benefits of Ramadan

Muslims do not fast because of medical benefits which are of a secondary nature.
Fasting has been used by patients for weight management, to rest the digestive
tract and for lowering lipids. There are many adverse effects of total fasting
as well as of crash diets. Islamic fasting is different from such diet plans
because in Ramadan fasting, there is no malnutrition or inadequate calorie
intake. The calorie intake of Muslims during Ramadan is at or slightly below the
nutritional requirement guidelines. In addition, the fasting in Ramadan is
voluntarily taken and is not a prescribed imposition from the physician.

Ramadan is a month of
self-regulation and self training, with the hope that this training will last
beyond the end of Ramadan. If the lessons learned during Ramadan, whether in
terms of dietary intake or righteousness, are carried on after Ramadan, there
effects will be long lasting. Moreover, the type of food taken during Ramadan
does not have any selective criteria of crash diets such as those which are
protein only or fruit only type diets. Everything that is permissible is taken
in moderate quantities.

The difference between Ramadan and
total fasting is the timing of the food; during Ramadan, we basically miss lunch
and take an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Abstinence from water for
8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health and in fact, it causes
concentration of all fluids within the body, producing slight dehydration. The
body has its own water conservation mechanism; in fact, it has been shown that
slight dehydration and water conservation, at least in plant life, improve their

The physiological effect of
fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering
of the systolic blood pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal
recommendation for the treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin
diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension. In 1994 the first International
Congress on "Health and Ramadan", held in Casablanca, entered 50
extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting. While improvement in many
medical conditions was noted; however, in no way did fasting worsen any
patients' health or their baseline medical condition. On the other hand,
patients who are suffering from sever diseases, whether type I diabetes or
coronary artery disease, kidney stones, etc., are exempt from fasting and should
not be allowed to fast.

There are psychological effects of
fasting as well. There is a peace and tranquility for those who fast during the
month of Ramadan. Personal hostility is at a minimum, and the crime rate
decreases. Muslims take advice from the Prophet who said, "If one slanders
you or aggresses against you, say I am fasting."

This psychological improvement
could be related to better stabilization of blood glucose during fasting as
hypoglycemia after eating, aggravates behavior changes. There is a beneficial
effect of extra prayer at night. This not only helps with better utilization of
food but also helps in energy output. There are 10 extra calories output for
each unit of the prayer. Again, we do not do prayers for exercise, but a mild
movement of the joints with extra calorie utilization is a better form of
exercise. Similarly, recitation of the Quran not only produces a tranquility of
heart and mind, but improves the memory.

One of the odd nights in the last
10 days of Ramadan is called the night of power when angels descend down, and
take the prayer of worship to God for acceptance.

Fasting is a special act of
worship which is only between humans and God since no one else knows for sure if
this person is actually fasting. Thus God says in a hadith qudsi that
"Fasting is for Me and I only will reward it". In another hadith, the
Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) has said "If one does not give up
falsehoods in words and actions, God has no need of him giving up food and

Happy Ramadan to all Muslims.