Fasting is an essential part of faith in innumerable religions spread across the world. Yet, the fundamental difference between fasting in Islam and other beliefs is that the one prescribed in the sacred book of Islam ensures that although abstinence is there, the permitted period of food consumption guarantees that there is no real chance of malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake.
HOW DIFFERENT IS ISLAMIC FASTING?
The basic difference between abstinence in Ramadan and total fasting is the timing of the intake of food. We basically miss lunch, have an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Nothing more.
Even the insufficient supply of water, which is essential for human survival, does not have an adverse impact — it adjusts the concentration of all fluids within the body, resulting only in a nominal state of dehydration, which itself has beneficial effects.
As the fast only lasts between dawn and dusk, the body’s energy can be replaced in the pre-dawn (sehri) and dusk (iftar) meals. This results in a slow transition from using glucose to fat as the main source of energy, and prevents the breakdown of muscles for protein.
OF RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY
One of the five pillars on which the monotheistic religion of Islam stands upon, fasting is primarily a religious obligation and a spiritual experience. Yet, the design of a month-long fast makes it clear that Islam is pragmatic even in its obligatory duties.
While fasting is ordained for all Muslims, it is not obligatory for the elderly, the young or the ill, and people suffering from some other clinical, or non-clinical circumstances. From a nutritional point of view, fasting in the month of Ramadan is not a burden, but rather, a manner of reaping physical and, as research shows, even psychological benefits. This, as many claim, is proof that Islam is a pragmatic religion that addresses the realities and more.
To maintain a healthy life, every human being needs a certain number of calories, which differs from person to person. While it is true that generally during Ramadan the body is somewhat deprived of its total calorie count, any form of short fast, lasting anywhere from 20 to 36 hours, can in fact, reduce risks for heart disease, diabetes, and possibly, even cancer!
The changes that occur in the body depend on the duration of the fast. In the month of Ramadan, for a practicing Muslim, the body enters into a deprived state for approximately eight hours. In a normal person, body glucose, which is stored in the liver and muscles, is the body’s main source of energy. While fasting, this store of glucose is used up first to provide energy. Once the body runs out of the stored glucose, it starts using up from the fat reserve.
Short fasts also reduce oxidative stress and inflammation in cells. Many theorise that this helps prevent and even repair damage to our DNA; studies have linked damage to the DNA with developing cancer.
Scientists also have strong arguments for fasting as an anti-ageing method. In other words, fasting just may help us keep our organs health and this prolonging life.