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.
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- Effectiveness of Intermittent Fasting and Time-Restricted Feeding Compared to Continuous Energy Restriction for Weight Loss.
When you want to attend an event that requires particular etiquettes, you get prepared beforehand to represent yourself better and make the most of it. It is the same for entering the holy month of Ramadan during which the gates of heaven are said to be wide open, and the divine blessings are more than any other time . Let’s see how we can get prepared to make the most of Ramadan.
According to the Islamic teachings and the lifestyle of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP), spiritual preparation is crucial for having a fruitful Ramadan. In other words, the more one engages in spiritual and religious practices, such as prayer, reciting the Quran, etc. the more he/she will be able to benefit the unique chance of Ramadan. The practices below are helpful in this regard:
The two months leading to Ramadan are said to be the chances to get prepared for this great month of mercy and blessing for Muslims. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to fast most days of the month of Shaban  and recommended his followers to observe their religious duties more than ever. This way, one can benefit more from the spirit of Ramadan.
To make the most of Ramadan, one should purify the soul beforehand. Abstaining from sins is a step towards this . The two months before Ramadan, Rajab and Shaban, are excellent opportunities to refrain from every form of evil and prepare the soul for receiving the blessings of the Ramadan. Therefore, it is also advised to repent and to compensate for what we had done before .
One of the incidents that give importance to the month of Ramadan is the revelation of the Holy Quran on the nights of Qadr. Therefore, it is highly recommended to recite the Quran carefully and more than ever during the month of Ramadan. To have a better command of this holy book and also benefit from its many spiritual benefits, one can recite the Quran before the coming of Ramadan and contemplate on its teachings. This way, you will feel more prepared to recite more pages of the Quran during Ramadan.
Respecting the rights of others is advised repeatedly in Islamic teachings such that the supplication (Dua) of the one who is in debt to others, won’t be accepted . It means that without having paid the rights of others, all the prayers and the fasting during Ramadan will worth nothing. So, an important thing to do before Ramadan is to seek forgiveness from others.
Fasting before Ramadan (in Shaban) is an excellent way to adopt the eating habits of Ramadan. There are also spiritual benefits in fasting during Shaban, and it is highly recommended in Islamic teachings.
To get physically prepared for fasting during Ramadan, one can modify his\her eating habits as follows:
If you are coffee addicted, you might get a headache when being deprived of it for 15 hours, for example. It is good to start reducing the caffeine before Ramadan. It is a good practice to prevent any pain when you fast, and it is good for your health, too.
During Ramadan, especially in long days, you might not be able to eat like normal. Eat less before Ramadan to get used to it.
Doing so, you train your stomach for eating early in the morning before dawn.
Doing exercises and sports take a lot of energy and make you thirsty, which can be tough during Ramadan. It is better to start doing your workouts in the evening rather than in the morning to get the new rhythm for Ramadan.
During Ramadan, you drink less, which might increase the risk of kidney disease. So, drink more water and healthy drinks before Ramadan.
Constipation is a common problem when you fast during Ramadan. To prevent, eat more fresh fruits and vegetables high in fiber and keep this rhythm during Ramadan because it helps improve the digestion process.
All in all, Ramadan is a chance for every Muslim to evaluate his/her life and find the strength to change him/herself for the better. But without Allah’s help and guidance, we cannot even take a step. Therefore, before anything, we should direct our attention toward our Creator and ask Him to give us the ability and opportunity to make the most of the month of Ramadan.
- Bihar al-Anwar, vol. 93, p. 340.
- Muhammad al-Bukhari, "Sahih al-Bukhari", I. 1969.
- Ibn Babawayh, "Uyun Akhbar al-Ridha", vol. 2, p. 51.
- M. Milani, “Hikam wa Mawaedh Alanbiae”, vol. 1, p. 235.
“Modesty and faith are connected with one another just like two things fastened by a rope. If one of them is gone, the other is also lost” . Imam Baqir (AS). Modesty is a special sense that prevents one from saying inappropriate words and making mistakes. It refers to an uncomfortable feeling accompanied by embarrassment, caused by one's anxiety about being exposed to some unworthy or indecent conduct. This concept, as one of the highest and most fundamental moral qualities, is known as Haya in Islam. Modesty in Islam describes shyness and shame, but Haya represents a more profound implication that is based on faith. In many sayings (Hadiths), it has been quoted that modesty is linked with faith and originates from it [1, 2]. Hence, it is one of the most important characteristics that every Muslim should acquire and possess ; particularly Muslim women (“haya is a good characteristic for all, but is better for women” ).
There are two types of modesty: natural and acquired. An example of the former is the feeling of shyness and humility naturally occurring in a young child that makes him/her cover the private parts of the body from others. Or, in the story of Eve and Adam (PBUT) where they realize their nakedness and try to hide their genitals. This kind of modesty is common sense that exists within all human beings, believer or non-believer: “God Almighty divided the modesty among people just as He divided the provision” , and what differentiates them from animals: “If modesty did not exist … the promises wouldn’t be kept … Nobody would do any good, and nobody would refrain from the evil … if it weren’t for modesty, many people wouldn’t stop sinning.” . Modesty serves as a cover on the soul that conceals the defects and calms down wrath and lust . No one can, therefore, justify his/her sins and mistakes because of not being naturally given a sense of modesty.
The latter, on the other hand, can be only attained as a result of knowing and perceiving the Glory of Allah and minding His presence everywhere and in every second. In Islamic ethics, modesty is more than just a question of how a person dresses and acts in social interactions; instead, it is reflected in a Muslim’s conduct before God, before others, and even when one is alone.
Modesty towards others entails that one has decent and reasonable behavior in public, avoids indecent talks and vain activities, and respects everyone around him/her. If one has developed this ethical aspect within him/her and obeyed this sense, he/she will become ashamed when someone notices him doing something wrong. This feeling will be even worse when the other person is in a higher position. This, consequently, stops him/her from repeating that action.
To clarify the importance of modesty towards people, Imam Ali (AS) said that the evilest of all is who is not ashamed of his actions in front of people .
Modesty towards others includes especially the opposite gender and involves not gazing at them , harming them in any way or indulging in any forbidden (Haram) relation with them. In Surah Nur, Allah guides both men and women to the key to modesty by saying that believing men and women should lower their gaze and guard their modesty (24:30-31).
A good instance of modesty in the interactions between opposite genders is described in Surah Qasas, verses 23-26, between the daughters of Shoaib (PBUH) and Moses (PBUH). These verses demonstrate that the daughters of the prophet work and appear in society, but they care about how they interact with others; they concentrate on what they should do without having unnecessary dialogues with men. They communicate as much as necessary, with respect and dignity. Their speech is direct and clear-cut with Moses, so are Moses’s words. Even the way they both walk is with care and shyness .
Modesty towards oneself means that a person treats himself fairly in private. It is caused by the unpleasant feeling that arises when thinking of or doing something improper which consequently stops one from forbidden (Haram) thoughts or illicit acts. It was mentioned that when one does something indecent and suddenly notices the presence of others, he becomes ashamed (if he still possesses the natural modesty that is laid within his soul); a higher level of Haya is being ashamed of oneself when no one else is present. This kind of modesty is known as the yield of faith: “The shame a person feels from himself originates from [his] faith.” .
Modesty towards God is called the best level of modesty : “be modest in front of Allah for He has a right to your modesty” . To accomplish this, one should first believe that nothing can be concealed from God “Does he not know that Allah sees [him]?” (96:14). In fact, Allah sees and knows everything, and is closer to humans more than themselves: “and We are nearer to him than [his] jugular vein” (50:16). Consequently, a modest person toward God will avoid any indecent act, in public or private, and will leave sinful thoughts behind.
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