Ramadan Kareem. My heart fills with joy as the Muslims around the world embark on the holy month of Ramadan today. It not only strengthens my spirituality, but is a time to get more conscious of God and to reflect on all His bounties.
O you who believe fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you so that you can learn Taqwa (guard from evil , or be God-conscious). the Quran 2:183
Fasting is not completely accurate translation for the Arabic word, Sawm. “Fasting” is much more than avoidance of food and drinks. The literal meaning of sawm includes abstinence, which is closer to the essence of fasting.
In addition to the most obvious, it is the month to abstain from things that are otherwise Halal, or allowed, such as sexual relations with your spouse. It is also a month to abstain from things that are normally forbidden, such as lying, backbiting, but emphasized even more during the month.
It is a month to engage in worshipping our Creator, ask for forgiveness, and engage in charitable work. In fact, Muslims around the world open their pockets and their hearts in this blessed month, and a very large chunk of annual donations occur in this month alone.
It is a month to purify our body, our minds and our souls- free from pollutions that might have crept into our hearts in the preceding months. It is a month not only to ask for forgiveness, but also to forgive. It is a month to thank God to show our gratitude, but to also thank others around us to show our appreciation.
This month is all about self-control and controlling our desires- the desire to eat and drink, and engage in other affairs as noted above. If we practice controlling our urges the entire month, it provides us a strong platform to do the good in the months that follow.
It also gives me a feeling of well-being, and even euphoria, like no other action. There are medical reasons for that, not to mention the spiritual lift that fasting gives.
From a physical standpoint, here are a few tips to make your Ramadan even more enjoyable.
Healthy Tips during Fasting/Ramadan
During Ramadan, avoid:
- Overindulgence at Suhur(start of the fasting) and at Iftar. It beats the purpose of fasting and can actually backfire. Leave some space for air!
- Hot, spicy food and fried food at Suhur and Iftar, such as French fries, pakoras, fried samosas, nihari and other curry-rich food (apologies to my south east Asian friends).
- It is a diuretic and may lead to dehydration. (Black)Tea may be less problematic but it does contain caffeine. Green tea has the least amount of caffeine.
- Refined sugars and Sodas. Avoid high-sugar drinks. Avoid breaking the fast with orange juice, as it is acidic in nature.
- Vegetables and fruits, especially those rich in fluid and electrolytes content such as watermelon, pomegranates, oranges, cucumber, and bananas (high potassium content). Dates are a good source of fiber and potassium. Drinking lemon juice also provides water and potassium.
- It helps to fill you up and helps digestion of food at Suhur more slowly rather than a fast burn, which may lead to feeling hungry early on during the fasting periods.
- White meat. Limit red meat to 1-2 x week. Meat and fish are good sources of proteins.
- Plenty of fluids- water is actually preferred. Drink at least 2 liters of water between Iftar and Suhur. If you are working out or perspire a lot, you need to drink more.
Special precautions in:
- If you have Diabetes, especially if you take insulin. Consult with your doctor before fasting.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding. Fasting is not recommended from a medical perspective (as well from religious perspective).
- If you are taking multiple medications throughout the day, consult with your doctor if fasting is feasible for you.
- If you have other serious medical conditions such as heart arrhythmias, cancer, organ transplant, kidney, gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and liver disease. This is not an all-inclusive list. When in doubt, consult with your doctor.