A great spiritual treasure, fasting in Ramadan also has several other benefits for mind and body.
1. Mental detox from busy lifestyles
Fasting during the month of Ramadan provides a mentally-cleansing break from demanding daily routines, worldly concerns and distractions. It directs the mind to focus on remembering Allah i.e. the essence of life itself, by sacrificing the necessity of food and drink during daylight hours, which consequently reminds us of our vulnerability and need as human beings before God. Ramadan re-awakens our spirituality, whilst providing a retreat from the excess of modern lifestyles and reminding us of the sweetness of simplicity, gratitude and empathy.
2. Reduce excessive food & harmful dietary habits
“Fasting is the first principle of medicine.” (Mawlana Rumi) Fasting allows the digestive system to recover from the usual ongoing consumption of food and drink. It is scientifically proven that fasting allows the body to detox i.e. to flush out toxic substances accumulated throughout previous months. In the case of Ramadan, this is not just a physical detox but also for the heart and mind. Fasting improves stamina, blood circulation and bodily strength, whilst promoting clearer skin and whiter eyes as a result of better overall bodily health. Additionally, as a result of fasting for thirty consecutive days, we are later able to maintain greater control over our dietary habits – including what we eat, how much we eat and how frequently.
3. Kick negative habits
Over time, fasting helps to resist cravings of nicotine, caffeine and other harmful substances as it increases a person’s inner strength in implementing abstinence and self-control. Mental strength is a huge factor in overcoming addictions and habits, and fasting during Ramadan gives one the push and spiritual affirmation needed to win the inner battle.
Ramadan is a time where the devils are chained, and the distraction of food and drink is reduced for us. During these days, we are reminded of our own weaknesses, and the limits of our human nature which enables us to identify our defects. Should we choose to accept, Ramadan gifts us with reflection, purification of our hearts and seeking forgiveness for our faults whilst the doors of the Heavens are open. It is a prime opportunity for self-improvement, character development and a precious opening to become better individuals from this point onward. It gives us the clarity of mind to remember Allah with a clear mind and heart, and strive to draw nearer to Him..
5. Nurture gratitude & empathy
Many of us are fortunate enough to break our fasts with a complete and satisfying meal. Ramadan opens our eyes to the plight suffered by those less fortunate than us, whose iftar is not guaranteed or whose living conditions are not fit for human beings. The hunger and struggle of fasting provides us with an insight into just a fraction of hardship which the poor endure on a daily basis, and opens our hearts to be grateful to Allah, and to be open-handed in charity towards those in need.
6. The virtue of patience
The test of patience during fasting is connected to our human need for food, and who we are when we don’t have it. Ultimately, it is a test of how much control we have over our baser self (nafs) and whether we are able to excel over it, or become dominated by its power over us. The Prophet ﷺ teaches us not to retaliate if we are provoked whilst fasting, which abases the ego and enables self-purification.
7. Re-kindling community ties
Ramadan is undoubtedly a month which brings hearts together, and revives community relations. Whether through the simple greeting of ‘Ramadan Mubarak!’, empathising with each other’s fasting struggles or gathering to break the fast at the local masjid, Ramadan brings people together and unites the people as one body. Being the month of Mercy, it is during this month that people also make amends with one another and seek each other’s forgiveness, and children are warmly enlightened about the special magnificence of this month which is yearned for all year long.