When it comes to fasting, many questions might come to mind. Is it even healthy? Is it safe? Does it benefit my fitness goals? Those are the very most typical questions that are asked by the public about fasting. The purest form of fasting, as I am sure you have heard of it, is that of intermittent fasting (IF). Which happens to be good for your health, apt to your fitness goals, and safe.
Intermittent fasting is one of the most popular health and fitness trends nowadays, except that it `is´ not, but `has been´ for thousands of years, practiced by different societies and cultures for a wide range of variable causes. Whether a Zen monk, yogi, Tibetan monk about the Himalayas, or a participant of any Abrahamic or dharmic faith, they all have one thing in common; and that is that they all have fasted.  As mentioned in the Holy Quran, “O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous(2:183) and as Imam Baqir (AS) has said “Islam has five pillars, and those are: the Prayers (Salat), the alms-tax (Zakat), the holy Pilgrimage (Haj), fasting (of Ramadhan) (Sawm), and the leadership (Imamate),” further centering on the importance of Fasting . Moreover, as the Prophet (PBUH&HP) bids, “All that it is due of Zakat, and Fasting is that of the body´s” .
Fasting in Islam is a symbol of freeing oneself from false earthly desires to a more grandiose world, in which possibilities are limitless and power is infinite. In fact, we are too driven by day-to-day life that we never contemplate the things that matter anymore, or at the very least, we do not get to do so. Imam Sadiq (AS) has bid, “Allah has manifested fasting as an obligation to bring equality between the poor and the rich” .
Such spiritual undertakings such as fasting and praying have a single most important thing in common, and that is the essence of the present moment. The more engaged one is with the high vibrational energies of the moment, the less compulsive and unconscious one becomes. Now we can say that acts like prayers (which brings awareness and facilitates brain and heart coherence) and meditations separate us a little bit from the compulsive and sub-conscience-driven life style of the modern society.
But, imagine you were introduced to a life style of letting go of compulsive behaviours, thoughts, and actions; and deeply become more integrated into the present moment in which high vibrational energies reside. Ramadhan provides this opportunity for over a billion Muslims and the people of other faiths who fast because of the fun it brings, and all fasting acts for that matter. It is very important to know that we are being so driven by life that we don’t know what fun is anymore. We are so reactive nowadays, that we are no more proactive towards our lives, being triggered left and right by what the scholars call super-stimuli (over-stimulating aspects of the modern society, which our cave-man brains have not adapted to its bursts evolutionary-wise) , which our ancestors did not dispose of until as late as late twentieth century. With the rise of super-stimuli, and the further adaptation, but not evolution, of the human brain to the dopamine (the motivation, and reward neurotransmitter) hits, we live a life of chasing phantoms(reliefs) and not challenges.
One of the hot topics of modern productivity is the deactivation of the brain´s reward centre for a period of time. Our brain´s reward centre has become very reactive, and non-proactive, and keeps on rewarding us a little shot of dopamine, whether craving a cigarette, a glass of wine, a cup of coffee, or even as far as watching pornography and binge eating for several hours. Activities which have been proven to deliberately deteriorate our physical state . Yet, our brain´s reward centre keeps hitting us with feel-good chemicals. This process goes on and on as far as lowly losing the initial sensation to the initial amount, bringing up the threshold, hence; the excessive habit loop. During Ramadan, though, we break the bad old habits, we become new, as whole as a little baby, as though we have had our serotonin (wellness neurotransmitters) re-set button pushed. Fasting is not only about freeing oneself from food, but rather from all other super-stimuli, such as; negativity, excessive sexual activities, and spilling stimulating liquids down our throats all day long.
Now, we are freed of compulsive unconscious behaviours, and embrace the true happiness of life, the state of blissfulness and joy which is what we are born with. We can sit down not eating, not drinking, not engaging in highly stimulating activities and still feel joy, and a continuous state of happiness, what had since long been robbed of us by the advancements of the modern society. We can feel great now, with the strongest paradigm of manifestation, as mentioned by David R. Hawkins, the one and only superior paradigm to all others: being.  Not having, not doing, but simply letting go of the earthly, and connect to the great source of all consciousness that is “God”. As Imam Ali (AS) said “Fasting is as much staying aloof of the taboos as it is staying away of eating” .
Studies have shown that the time restricted feeding (TRF) or intermittent fasting (IMF) leads to more weight loss, which is clearly manifested in the Islamic approach to fasting. Consuming more calories in the morning has shown to be more effective than that of evening, as far as metabolism, weight loss, and prevention of obesity-which has come to be a major epidemic in the developing nations. There are self-reports of significant decrease in the volume of the fat tissues under skin which distort the good looks of our bodies. Referred experiments prove that the TRF significantly decreases the body fat, but does not affect the weight in short period of 15 days. Although more weight loss upon hitting a 30 days threshold is expected. 
Although cutting calories from everyday diet has quite similar effects like the IMF, Small reductions in total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, triglycerides, and fasting glucose and insulin with IMF have been reported in several studies. The greatest decrease of which is in bad cholesterol contributing to a lesser chance of suffering from heart diseases.
Health benefits of fasting encompasses far greater areas than that of the physical health. It mentally alleviates the individual, and activates a new set of body-substances , which grants us to focus on long-term goals and areas of our lives, and become more process-oriented than result-oriented, and adapts our brain´s reward centre to long-term rewards rather than short-term pleasures. Fasting is very complex, common people have been observed achieve the uncommon by long-term fasting; in fact, so complex that by all advancements in medical science, delving deeper into the topic is an area of future investigations.
- Armutcu, Ferah. (2019). Fasting may be an alternative treatment method recommended by physicians.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Forou Kafi, vol. 4, Pg. 62, 1.
- Muhammad ibn Ya'qub al-Kulayni al-Razi , Al-Kafi, vol. 4, Pg. 62, 3.
- Muhammad ibn Babawayh , Man La Yahdaraho al-Faqih, vol. 6, Pg. 43, 1.
- de Zwaan, M. Binge eating disorder and obesity.
- Muhammad Baqir Majlisi, Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, Pg. 249,
- Erik H. Cohen, Rachel Sagee et Rivka Reichenberg, « Being, Having and Doing Modes of Existence
- Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Feeding Compared to Continuous Energy Restriction for Weight Loss.
Almost everyone is scared of death; Even those who may commit suicide in a specific mental condition. If a physician tells us that we have an unknown disease and we will only live for a few more months, we would panic and stop living our normal life (we might live better or worse).
The reason that makes most of us scared of death is that we think all the things that we have tried to gain in this life, such as our belongings, our beloveds, our success, and experiences are going to disappear after death. Or that there is still a lot for us in this world to experience, achieve and enjoy.
However, this fear of death is mostly because the other world and the life after death are quite unknown to us, but if we come to understand the afterlife, we may even become eager to fulfill our duties in this life and get ready to travel to the other world.
Now, let’s see if it is true that we will lose everything after death and also what Islam says about death and the life after it.
Having faith in the afterlife (Ma’ad) is so important that it is one of the pillars of Islam. The main reason is that it is by believing in the fact that we will be resurrected after death and we will be held responsible for all of our actions, that we are careful about our manners and behaviors in this worldly life. It is mainly this idea that shapes our lifestyle and our relations with God, people, environment, etc.
We usually take the earthly life very seriously, as if there is nothing more significant than our goals, actions, and relations in this world. Although the way we live in this world is significant and it is our worldly actions that shape our lives in the hereafter, the Quran emphasizes that the real life is to come: “The life of this world is nothing but diversion and play, but the abode of the Hereafter is indeed Life (itself), had they known!” (29:64)
“Then He made him die and buried him” (80: 21).
After we are dead and buried in a grave, our grave phase starts. But how is this phase?
It is narrated that “the grave is either a garden from heaven’s gardens or a corner of hell” .
When the dead person is buried, he will not feel suffocated, but he will experience a sort of pressure that is indescribable for people in this world as if he is being squeezed to pass a needle hole. This pressure would work as a purifier for believers but unbelievers has nothing but pain and sorrow .
This pressure does not belong to those people who are buried, but every dead person will have this experience, even if they are dead hung or burnt into ashes. The pressure belongs to the soul, and every soul will go through the experiences of the afterlife .
But does everyone experience the grave pressure? It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that only very few people will be saved from going through this pressure .
Some of the reasons that will increase the grave pressure are backbiting, gossiping, disrespecting parents, usury, immorality, unpleasant manner towards family and friends, devastating the rights of other humans, etc. , while behaving based on Islamic teachings and ethics will reduce the grave pressure.
When the dead person is buried, his/ her soul will leave the body but will still stay close to it. So he/she can see the burial ceremony and what is going on around. When his/ her relatives leave the grave, he/she finds him/herself alone in the dark and small grave.
Here, people are divided into three groups: perfect believers, complete atheists, the middle ones. The first group will start their heavenly life right away, the second group will start their eternal life in hell, and the middle that includes the majority of people will remain in hope and fear until the Resurrection Day when their situation will be determined .
The first and the second group will experience the grave questioning by two angels; Nakir and Munkar so that they quickly start their eternal life in heaven or hell. But the third group will not be questioned until the Judgment Day .
It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that limbo (Barzakh) means human’s grave from the time he dies until the day he is resurrected . We know that most human bodies will be destroyed after some time in the grave, but what happens to the soul?
Based on the fact that the limbo (Barzakh) is a place between this life and the other life, and that all human beings, even those who are burnt to ashes or those who are hunted and eaten by animals will experience the limbo (Barzakh), we can conclude that the life in the grave -mentioned as limbo (Barzakh) life- is not limited to the grave. So what and how is limbo (Barzakh) life?
Right after death, the human soul directly enters a new life in which he/she can feel everything. They can have pleasure and sorrow which is based on their actions and behaviors in their worldly life.
Therefore, human experiences two lives after death. One is the limbo (Barzakh) life that would end like our earthly life: “And before them is a barrier until the day they will be resurrected” (23:100), and the other is the eternal life that starts on the Day of Resurrection and people may go to eternal hell or eternal heaven based on their worldly actions .
“And because the Hour is bound to come, there is no doubt in it, and Allah will resurrect those who are in the graves.” (22: 7)
The Day of Resurrection does not only belong to human beings. All creatures will be resurrected on that day . On the Day of Resurrection, people will be queued to be questioned about their actions and to be sent to their eternal place. This day is not like our worldly days that are 24 hours. But as stated in the Quran “He directs the command from the heaven to the earth; then it ascends toward Him in a day whose span is a thousand years by your reckoning” (32: 5). And in another verse, it is stated that: “The angels and the Spirit ascend to Him in a day whose span is fifty thousand years” (70: 4).
Imam Sadiq (AS) was asked: “why is that in one verse Allah says that the Day of Judgment is equal to a thousand years and in another verse, it is said to be equal to fifty thousand years?” Imam (AS) answered: “On the Day of Resurrection there are fifty stops, each of them equals a thousand years of this world” .
It is on this day that people face their worldly actions: “The day when every soul will find present whatever good it has done; and as for the evil, it has done, it will wish there were a far distance between it and itself. Allah warns you to beware of [disobeying] Him, and Allah is most kind to [His] servants” (3: 30).
Unlike limbo (Barzakh) in which people wait to be resurrected and transported to a new world, the afterlife, which comes after the Day of Resurrection is eternal. Unlike this world in which we have to work and gain for the next life; in the eternal heaven there is no tiredness, nor sorrow, nor pain, nor hardship; “to remain in them [forever]; they will not seek to leave it for another place” (18: 108).
So, in the afterlife, people may become eternal in heaven or hell [i]. However, not all of those who go to hell will be eternal there, as it is narrated from the Imam Sadiq (AS) that “on the Day of Resurrection, God will expand His mercy so generously that even Iblis (Satan) will be greedy to receive it .
The role of remembering death in improving the worldly life and therefore the life in the hereafter is very important. Imam Ali (AS) says: “when deciding to do evil actions, remember death as it destroys the pleasures and weakens the desires” . But what is the most important benefit of remembering death?
If we do not believe in another life and remember death as the end of existence, then many things in life may sound vain for us, and we may even lose our motivation to keep on having a good life. But when we believe that there is another life which is the real life, our actions in this world become more meaningful and targeted. Allah says in the Quran: “Did you suppose that We created you aimlessly and that you will not be brought back to Us?” (23: 115)
When we believe that there is no life after death, we might face many anxieties, disappointments and live an aimless life. But keeping in mind that whatever we do is being seen by God and recorded by Him, we will have more motivation to do good things, even if no one in this world cares about us.
“They say, ‘There is nothing but the life of this world: we live, and we die, and nothing but time destroys us.’ But they do not have any knowledge of that, and they only make conjectures… Say, ‘It is Allah who gives you life, then He makes you die. Then He will gather you on the Day of Resurrection, in which there is no doubt. But most people do not know” (45: 24-6).
[i] Read about the concept of eternal life here: http://blog.holymoodpictures.com
- Allamah Majlesi, Bihar al-anwar, vol. 6. Chapter Sakarat al-mawt, narration No. 19
- Bahmanpour, Mohammad Saeed, (2012) Naseem- e Abadiyyat, p. 34
- Shaikh Al-Sadouq, Man la yahzuruhu Al-faqih, vol. 1, p. 279
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 6, p. 260
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 5, p. 265
- Bahmanpour, Mohammad Saeed, (2012) Naseem- e Abadiyyat, p. 41
- Allamah Majlesi Bihar al-anwar, vol. 6. Chapter Ahwal-e barzakh, narration No. 116
- Mutahhari, Murtaza, Life after death, Vol. 3, p. 504
- An’aam (6), Verse No. 38
- Allamah Majlesi Bihar al-anwar, vol. 7, p. 126
- Allamah Majlesi , Bihar Al-Anwar, vol. 7, p. 287
- Nahjul balagha, sermon No. 99
The concept of responsibility in Islam covers all the aspects of human beings and considers different situations one may encounter in his/her life. Islam is not only a religion but also a life plan; a divine plan that addresses all the humans throughout the history of humankind. Since religion, as a plan deals with the daily life of humans, it has illustrated the tasks and responsibilities in Islam of humans.
These duties can be summarized in four items:
The rights that God has over humans;
The rights that one has over himself;
The responsibilities towards other humans;
And, the responsibilities towards other creatures in this world.
These four categories will be discussed under separate topics each considering one responsibility in Islam. Here the focus is on the humans’ responsibility in Islam towards God.
According to Imam Sajjad (AS), the rights that God has over human beings, which are the most important rights over everybody, are to know that we are His servants, to pray Him and not ascribe any partners to Him . This means that we have two main responsibilities in Islam towards God: first, to recognize and believe in God then, practically demonstrate it.
The first thing is to accept the existence of the one true God and to recognize all his divine attributes such as very powerful (Qadir), the provider (Razzaq), generous (Karim), etc.
By knowing these attributes and then believing that they are unique to God, one will be more successful in his duties responsibilities in Islam towards God [i]. For example, knowing that God is the only provider (Razzaq) in the universe, a true Muslim does not worry about livelihood, nor he\she will be greedy for more wealth. He\she knows that if he\she works adequately according to his\her capacities, he\she will be provided with the sustenance that God has reserved for him\her.
Imam Ali (AS) has advised his son Imam Hassan (AS) to recognize God since it is a duty over every human being: “He is One Allah whom we should all recognize and worship” .
Then, Imam (AS) enumerates some of the attributes of God that a Muslim should believe in :
“Nobody is a partner to Him in His Domain”;
“He is Eternal, has always been and shall always be”;
“He existed even before the Universe came into being, but there is no beginning to His Existence”;
“He shall remain when every other thing shall vanish, and there shall be no end to His Existence”;
“His Glory and His Existence is so supreme, pre-eminent, transcendent, incomparable and excellent that it is beyond the grasp of intellects”;
“No one can understand or visualize Him.“ .
To recognize God and to believe in Him deeply in the heart are not enough; one should also say that he\she believes in God; otherwise, no one will be aware of his\her belief if it is not declared. That is why one should pronounce two testimonies (Shahadatain) to become Muslim.
In Surah Fatir, it is said that “To Him ascends good speech” (35:10), which means that the verbal admission to God is appreciated and is surely beneficial. But, it should be accompanied with good deeds and obedience to God to be more valuable: “and righteous work raises it.” (35:10).
Indeed, demonstrating the belief in God in practice is as important as believing in Him. If a child loves his\her parents but ignores their expectations and advice, he\she, in fact, does not respect them and the parents will not believe the his\her claim of having affection for them.
The same happens between a Muslim and God. A Muslim who ignores God’s commands, which are beneficial to him\her, does not truly believe in Him. Otherwise, he\she knew that everything that God has ordered to is to help him\her to live a better life, to improve and to reach the perfection that he\she merits.
According to Imam Ali (AS) , after accepting the facts mentioned above about God, a Muslim’s behavior should be like that of a person who realizes God’s superior status and power. He\she should try to gain His blessing through prayers and obedience, fear His wrath as well as His Punishments and feel him\herself absolutely in need of His help and protection .
In the Quran, it is stated that humans are created to worship God (51:56). Prayer and worship of God are duties over every Muslim as they remind him\her of the his\her creator and the fact that there is a reason to be in this world.
Another practical duty is to obey God’s commands that are mentioned in the Quran or explained in the narrations from prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) and Imams (AS). Simply said: to do what is obligatory (Wajib) or advised to (talk pleasantly to others (2:83); to do good to others (16:90); to fast (2:183) and pray (4:103); etc.) and to leave what is Forbidden (Haram) (talking behind back of others (49:12); wasting water and nutrition (7:31))2.
Briefly, there are three main duties over every Muslim about God: to recognize Him, to declare the admission to Him, and to obey and worship Him. Duties of a Muslim towards him\herself and his responsibility in Islam, other people, and other creatures will be discussed in the next parts of the article.
[i] Recognition and belief are two different concepts. The recognition of God means to accept His existence and all His divine attributes, while the belief in God means to have faith in Him.
[ii] The two other categories of acts according to Islamic jurisprudence are: Recommended (Mustahab) acts and Detestable or abominable (Makruh) acts. Recommended (Mustahab) acts are those practices which are not compulsory in Islam, but a believer prefers to do it for God’s satisfaction. Detestable or abominable (Makruh) actions are not subject to punishment, but a believer abstains from them for God’s satisfaction.
- Imam Sajjad (AS), Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq).
- Nahj al balagha, Letter 31.