The Month of Fasting & Forgiveness: The Origins and Health Benefits of Ramadan
Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam and the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar. Ramadan is the most important month of the year for Muslims as it marks the period in which the angel Gabriel appeared to the Prophet Mohammed Peace Be Upon Him (PBUH) on the night of Laylat Al Qadar and revealed to him the Holy Qur’an. The month of Ramadan has since been celebrated by Muslims to commemorate the revelation of the Qur’an.
When is Ramadan?
The Islamic calendar is shorter than the Gregorian calendar and so Ramadan begins 10-12 days earlier each year. The beginning of Ramadan is determined by the sighting of the crescent moon and lasts 29-30 days until the sighting of next crescent moon. This year, Ramadan is expected to last from Monday, April 12 to Tuesday, May 11.
The end of Ramadan is marked by Eid ul Fitr, a three-day festival where friend and family come together to celebrate and exchange gifts.
What do Muslims do in Ramadan?
Ramadan, observed by Muslims all over the world is known to be a month of reflection and growth, modesty, and empathy. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims are required to fast and practice self-restraint between sunrise and sunset. Fasting includes refraining from food and drink, sexual activity, and all forms of immoral behaviors and language. Fasting during Ramadan is an obligation for all Muslims except for pregnant or menstruating women, people who are ill, the elderly or those who are traveling. Missed days can be made up for during the year.
Fasting is a shield, so the one who fasts should avoid obscene speech and ignorant behavior. If someone abuses him or starts to fight with him, he should reply by saying: ‘I am fasting. I am fasting’. – Saheeh Al Bukhari, A companion of the Prophet Mohammed
Health benefits of Ramadan backed up science: Dates
It is a customary tradition for Muslims to break their fast by eating three dates at Iftar (At Sunset). Consuming dates has many health benefits and provides the right amount of carbohydrates after fasting. Dates are high in fibre to support during Ramadan and they are also a good source of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B. There is no doubt that dates are among the healthiest fruits and super foods.
Fasting improves brain function and reduces stress levels. Did you know that fasting can improve concentration and brain power?
Fasting signals, the brain to increase its natural growth factor which supports the growth of brain cells, thus improving brain function. Also, fasting signals the adrenal glands to produce less cortisol levels which means stress levels are reduced.
Fasting during Ramadan undoubtedly serves as a spiritual detox but it also serves to cleanse our bodies. Fasting allows the digestive system to detoxify and take a break from digestion. Going long hours without eating also means that our metabolism increases and our bodies improve absorption of nutrients from food.
Salah: Prayer. Muslims pray five times a day.
Taraweeh: Additional prayers offered at night during Ramadan.
Iftar: At sunset, fasting is broken with a meal called Iftar.
Suhoor: An early morning meal eaten before sunrise.
Zakat: Charitable giving.