"Whoever fasts Ramadan and follows it with six days of Shawwal, it will be as if he fasted for a lifetime."Narrated by Muslim, Abu Dawud, At-Tirmidhi, An-Nisa'i and Ibn Majah
The Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) explained this when he said: "Whoever fasts for six days after ('Eid) Al-Fitr has completed the year: (whoever does a good deed (hasanah) will have ten hasanah like it)."
According to another report: "Allah has made for each hasanah ten like it, so a month is like fasting ten months, and fasting six days completes the year." [An-Nisa'i and Ibn Majah. See also Sahih at-Targhib wa't-Tarhib, 1/421)
As fasting is great for spiritual cleansing, it also acts as an excellent detox for the body. When we fast, our bodies use energy from fat reserves to burn and eliminate stored toxins.This natural detoxification allows us to reset and heal, and will give our bodies a chance to maintain alkinalty. Our lungs and other cleansing organs will also start the process of repairing, typically leading to a stronger and more active immunity.
When we are not consuming food throughout the day during Ramadan, we are allowing our bodies to take a break and relax. Our bodies will have more time to digest and metabolize efficiently, meaning that the absorption of our nutrients will be improved and utilized properly. Fasting contributes to a healthier body as different parts are able to absorb better and make use of the nutrients needed to function. It is important to eat healthy in order to provide your body with the required vital nutrients.
As our bodies burn fat for energy during fasting, we tend to lose some weight in the process. This has been shown to affect our lipid profile by reducing the bad cholesterol aka ”LDL” levels. Low cholesterol levels improve heart health which could reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Weight loss also results in balanced sugar levels and control of diabetes. It is important to follow a healthy diet after Ramadan to maintain the lowered levels of cholesterol and stabilized sugar levels.
Certainly, most Muslims are aware of the positive impacts fasting can have on our mental wellbeing and spiritual attention, but only few understand the brain boosting effects of Ramadan. The mental focus achieved during Ramadan increases the brain cell productivity leading to improved brain function. Fasting is also known to improve brain health by reducing stress and anxiety. Fasting can be a process of “charging” the brain which aids in improving mood, strengthening memory, sharpening focus and providing mental clarity.
Ramadan is a great chance for you to replace your bad habits with good ones. Since we fast during the day, it is important to have a bit of self-control of what we eat after we break our fast. That way you will start to restrain from some addictions like smoking and craving sugars and your body will gradually adjust to their absence. Ramadan is also a great time to begin and maintain healthy habits like consuming more greens, drinking more water and exercising more regularly. Shawwal is the month that can help reinforce the self control you have learned in Ramadan as well.
Some negative effects that you can experience during fasting are dehydration, headaches, tiredness and fatigue.That’s why it is important to stay hydrated and eat healthy/good quality meals when you break your fast in order to feel better and have more energy during the day. However, the benefits outweigh the cons. Eventually, fasting can enhance and optimize one’s physical and mental health if done properly. You are exempt from fasting If you are physically or mentally ill, pregnant, nursing, menstruating, need to take daily medication or have reached old age.
Please remember the health benefits of fasting, even after the blessed month of Ramadan leaves us and the reward for fasting in Shawwal. May Allah accept our efforts Ameen!
Dina Abdullah, RHN