The holy month of Ramadan begins Saturday, (June 28) and is a great opportunity for spiritual renewal with physical and health benefits.
Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset with no food or drink and have nightly prayers called Taraweeheh, (joy of the heart prayer). Department of Health guidelines in England included fasting as a way to promote comprehensive health to combat chronic diseases as diabetes, cholesterol, heart disease and degenerative arthritis.
Among the benefits of Ramadan fasting:
• Purification of the heart because eating so much causes almost a blinding of the heart. It makes thinking and concentration difficult and makes the body sluggish and the ability to extract, memorize and analyze data is much slower. Purity of the heart and mind, achieved by fasting, helps sharpen up the brain and memory as well as the heart.
• Softening the heart because there is frequent prayer and remembrance of God that improves mental and psychological status.
• Removing arrogance from a person's behavior. While fasting, a person realizes how the human being is helpless and should appreciate all the bounties given from our creator. You realize that there is no room to be arrogant or feel like you are above everybody else.
• Not forgetting the testing of God. You will know that the person who eats a lot forgets about the hungry and forgets about the thirsty. When you go through the hunger pain and the thirst, for limited hours, you will be able to relate to so many unfortunate fellow human beings who don't have all luxuries we have.
• Combatting desire and temptation. When you eat less, you will have less temptation and you will be able to control your desires. Hunger will limit sexual desire as well as help abstinence of the tongue which includes backbiting, lying and cheating others. It also will help stop constant chocolate cravings.
• Ridding yourself of activities and distractions that revolve around the eating such as grocery shopping and cooking. You will have more time to spend with God.
• Limiting food-related illnesses like indigestion, distention, gas and reflux disease. Fasting also helps regulate sleeping patterns because the less one eats the more energized one feels.
• Saving money because when you eat less you will not spend money beyond your budget. You will adapt to only eating small amounts of food, and avoid extravagant spending.
Ramadan is about sharing what God has given you with the orphan, the poor and needy because that charity will help you in this life and hereafter. Ramadan brings inner peace and happiness due to the release of natural endorphins produced with fasting, praying in large amounts and doing good deeds. Fasting is a true gift from God, and should be practiced and shared by everyone.
You don't have to do this strict fasting if you are not an observing Muslim in the month of Ramadan but you could have liquid-only diets (smoothies or shakes) rather than solids, leading to weight loss to combat obesity and fight stress. It is a true effective therapy for the human being. And, please share a sunset meal with your Muslim neighbors at any Mosque because it is the month of mercy, compassion and charity for entire humanity.
Dr. Adel Eldin is a cardiologist practicing in Brooksville and Wesley Chapel.