There are certain things in life that need to be experienced at least once by people, especially when it comes to depriving yourself of something as existentially habitual and taken for granted as the act of eating, which is one of the most repetitive things that a person does. For people of the Western World, cutting back on a part of their routine, whether it is by fasting, or other practices, could surprisingly be positive for one’s mind, body and soul.
This year, on Aug. 20, 2009, millions of dedicated Muslims around the world entered into the holiest month of the year, known as “Ramadan,” the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. This specific month is marked by a period of self-control and fasting, during which people abstain themselves principally from eating from sunrise to sunset, no food or no drink of any sort, not even water.
Besides the spiritual reasons and fulfillment that lead people to fast during this holy month, Ramadan is also practiced for other positive reasons. In addition to the exercise of continuous self-control and the opportunity of having your eyes opened to poverty and hunger across the planet, fasting has some serious health benefits.
It is clear that Ramadan represents an opportunity for the body to rest and for the digestive system to take a break from breaking down foods. This fasting also helps eliminate the toxins in the body from high processed foods and other unhealthy ingredients in one’s diet. Also, by moving its focus away from the digestive process, the body will naturally use its energy for other purposes such as healing itself. If the body’s immune system is less busy fighting bacteria and toxins, it will most likely start concentrating on combating existent diseases and sicknesses in the body.
According to Cell magazine, caloric restriction and alterations in metabolism go hand in hand with an increase in median lifespan of 30 per cent and a resistance to cardiac stress.
In 1994, the first international Congress on “Health and Ramadan” in Casablanca combined 50 research papers from all across the world, from Muslim and non-Muslim researchers who have studied extensively the medical ethics of fasting and stated that fasting could only be beneficial to people who are generally healthy enough to fast.
In fact, I believe that fasting, everyday, for a month, need not be only a religious practice. All healthy people, in normal conditions, should give their bodies the opportunity to pause, so that it might learn to comprehend what it is lacking and acquire ways to transform itself in order to get what it needs.
Millions of people around the world agree on the benefits of Ramadan and are completely devoted to this practice. Since it has been followed for thousands of years, there must be legitimate reasons to believe that it is, in fact, a very important thing to include in one’s life.
In a society like ours, people become forgetful of how simple actions like eating could overwhelm one’s physical self. Regardless of the objections that certain people might have towards a practice that denies the body of food, I think that fasting should become a bigger trend, a conscious effort that not only provides a person with psychological and physical advantages, but also that causes someone to become more conscientious about how their body works. We spend our lives eating, so why not give our body a break once in a while in order for it to refresh itself? It should be pure common sense.
- Sarah Khalil is the International Coordinator at the Manitoban.