Saturday,23 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)
Saturday,23 February, 2019
Issue 1394, (17 - 23 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

The joy of fasting

The joy of fasting
The joy of fasting

Here it comes that greatly anticipated month for billions of Muslims, the holy month of Ramadan. Disregard the crimes committed by ignorant and misguided terrorists during those sacred days. To Muslims this is the time for giving and forgiving, for serving and sharing, for praying and fasting.

The fast of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam, required of every able Muslim to abstain from food and drink and all mortal pleasures, including smoking, from dawn to dusk, as the body becomes one with the soul, triumphing over all vices.

This is a natural consequence of fasting, a faculty of penetrating the soul, while the body benefits.

Fasting has been known to man and beast since the beginning of time. Long before established religions, pre-historic man as well as animals, instinctively refrained from eating when sick. Thereby the body was cleansed from poisonous toxins. That was their first method of cure.

Early man also fasted to appease the gods, to ask pardon, to mourn the dead or to give thanks.

While the origins of fasting are unknown, it is as natural as eating, sleeping, laughing and crying.

Besides Islam, most religions, Christians, Jews, Hindus and other Eastern religions, adopted fasting as a form of penance, a spiritual healing process of purification and communion with God. You come out of your ways of life and become another, through a sort of intoxication of your intellectual faculties, as the spiritual becomes dominant.

Philosophers, scientists and physicians have all resorted to fasting as a healing process. It is not just an act of faith but a veritable cure to many of our ills. The fires of despair burn themselves out into ashes as the soul rises above physical pain. Those violent passions which drive men to good or evil are tempered during a period of fasting. The gratifying act of sacrifice allows the conquest of good in mankind.

Even politics has been served by fasting as exhibited by the most famous human to use fasting for political means. India’s leader Mahatma Gandhi effectively invented what is known as a “hunger strike”. Gandhi’s noble purpose was to end the civil war between Muslims and Hindus in his country: “By doing so he became a spokesman for the conscience of all mankind,” commented Albert Einstein.

Since then many have followed in his footsteps for one purpose or another, most famous among them is the civil rights’ leader Martin Luther King Jr, during his call for the freedom of and equality for his enslaved race.

Is it the sacrifice, the penance, the purification or a combination of several factors that bring about this strong spiritual communion with God. This elevation of spirit has been proven by the prayers of our prophets Moses, Jesus, Mohamed and many others. The Prophet Daniel is known to have fasted regularly, surviving on fruits and vegetables, but no grains, coffee, alcohol or juices. In the Book of Daniel the fast lasted for 21 days. It is still practised today, known as the “Daniel Diet”.  

The benefits of fasting are multi-dimensional, resulting in a total transformation, producing a wide range of metabolic changes.      

Medical benefits of a form of fasting are discovered constantly by scientists. It reduces inflammation levels, releases poisonous toxins from the colon, kidneys, bladder, lungs, sinuses and has succeeded in treating the flu, fever, bronchitis, back pain, headaches, mental illness, allergies, cancer, asthma, insomnia and skin problems. Incredibly, it treats diabetes Type 2, lowering blood sugar, cholesterol and systolic blood pressure.  Detoxification is an ideal recommendation for treatment of mild to moderate, stable, non-insulin dependent diabetes, while most physicians recommend eating every few hours.

Who would have thought that fasting was the forgotten miracle cure? “It is the single greatest healing therapy.” It is nature’s universal remedy for many problems caused by our food intake.

A Norwegian study discovered that rheumatoid arthritis, for which there is no cure, is significantly improved through fasting.  The pain, the swelling, the general functional ability is remarkably improved. However, the benefits were lost when the patients fell back to unhealthy eating habits. 

Here comes a joyful result.  

The effectiveness of fasting is a life-extension measure. “This is backed by experimental evidence,” writes John Mann in Secrets of Life Extension. Rats were made to fast one day out of three throughout their lives while eating normally on other days. Their lifespan increased 20 per cent compared to non-fasting rats. Since we mimic rats in reaction, should we not hope to mimic them again by fasting?

The Lancer, a very conservative medical journal, regards supervised fasting as extremely safe.

The ancient Greek philosophers Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and Hippocrates all believed in fasting, which helped turn their energies inward, to use for healing, clarity and change.

Some of us await the evening prayers, signalling the end of the fast, in order to indulge, indulge and continue to indulge till dawn. Please stop.

You do not need all this food. Benefit from the act of abstinence from the vice of over-eating. Heal your body and soul, for excess food is but an allergy, even an addiction.

We must not fail to mention an added bonus for fasting, besides the spiritual and physical: the loss of body fat. We work hard to achieve it, while fasting may be the answer.

We need to break the drowsy spell of habit and give our poor, overworked stomachs a much-needed rest.

“It is the truest prayer used for self-purification, cleansing the body, mind and soul.”  

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1980)

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