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.
One of the significant aspects of responsibility in Islam is the responsibility towards ourselves and how we treat our bodies and souls. As discussed previously, every Muslim is responsible towards himself.
Since human beings owe their existence to their unique Creature, they should treat themselves as their Creator has commanded. The spiritual responsibilities of a human towards him\herself and some of the duties that one has towards his\her body were discussed in the previous part of this topic. Here, we continue the discussion on the rights of the parts of the body.
The eyes are the means of insight and awakening of the heart. Imam Ali (AS) said that a faithful person looks to learn, but a hypocrite looks to amuse . Thus, of the rights of the eyes and one's responsibility in Islam towards them is to lower the gaze from whatever that is unlawful (Haram) and not to look at everything and everywhere around, unless there is a lesson or advice behind . According to Imam Ali (AS), whoever closes the eyes from Haram, his\her heart will be relieved .
The legs are the means to walk towards the right path and to overtake others in doing good deeds. Hence, of the rights of the legs over one and the responsibility in Islam towards them are not going towards what is unlawful (Haram) or what humiliates him\herself .
Of the rights of the hands are not to do what is unlawful (Haram) with them, otherwise one will be punished in the Hereafter for what has committed by his\her hands, and will be blamed by others in this world; not to prevent the hands from doing what God has commanded to; and, to allow the hands to seek what is beneficial and useful for one .
Of the rights of the stomach are :
To be careful about what you eat (80:24);
Not to eat what is unlawful (Haram), neither a little of it nor too much;
Not to consider the stomach as a container and not to overeat while ignoring others who suffer from hunger; “eat and drink, but do not waste” (7:31);
To eat moderately even when eating lawful (Halal) foods because eating less is the key to good health ;
Not to forget that overeating makes one bored and lazy and stops him\her from doing good deeds. According to Imam Ali (AS), to eat less enlightens the mind ;
To remember that drinking too much will also cause indiscretion and absurdity;
Of the rights of the private parts are to protect them from what is unlawful (Haram). To do so, one requires lowering the gaze since the eyes affect the heart and mind greatly. Also, one should frequently remember the death and the afterlife. He\she should always have a fear of the divine punishment and ask God to help him\her to protect his\her private parts from sins .
Every human being is composed of a body and a soul. These two, together, help one to live a natural life. The health of the body is as important as the health of the soul. Devoting everything in life to prepare for the afterlife and depriving oneself of the God’s blessings in this world is blamed in Islam. In Surah Qasas verses 77, Muslims are advised to apply the capabilities and wealth that they have been given to do good deeds and to gain rewards for the afterlife.
But, they should also consider and benefit from the blessings of this world (28:77). Indeed, it is possible to consider both the physical needs as well as spiritual ones simultaneously. Although fulfilling the physical needs is known to be important in Islam, one should keep a balance in life and avoid being luxury-oriented. Otherwise, he\she will always be busy to increase his\her wealth, and this might force him\her to unlawful (Haram) ways of raising money.
- S. al-Harrani “Tuhaf al-Uqul”, p. 212.
- Imam Sajjad (AS), Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq).
- “Ghurar Al-Hikam Wa Durar Al-Kalim”, T. 9122.
- S. al-Harrani “Tuhaf al-Uqul”, p. 172.
- “Ghurar Al-Hikam Wa Durar Al-Kalim”, T. 8462.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 78, p. 321.
The responsibilities of a Muslim towards family, relatives and other Muslims in general, were already reviewed in an article. Here one's responsibility in Islam towards neighbors, friends, and enemies are discussed.
Doing good to neighbors is highly emphasized in Islamic teachings: “Worship Allah and … be good to … the near neighbor and the distant neighbor” (4:36). Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) advised Imam Ali (AS) to honor the neighbors, even if they are disbelievers (Kafir) . Imam Ali (AS) said that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to invite repeatedly to doing good to neighbors such that we thought he (PBUH) was going to consider an inheritance for them .
To honor them in their presence, and to help and care about them when they are absent . It includes visiting neighbors when they are sick, to assist their funeral, and to offer them your tasty meals that smell good ;
To keep their secrets. It means that not to look for their faults and errors. And, if ever you become aware of some of their faults, do not reveal them but try to conceal their deficiencies ;
Do not leave neighbors alone in difficulties ; e.g., help them in case of financial needs ;
Do not be jealous of them if God grants them some blessings ;
Ignore their errors to yourself and forget about them. If ever they do wrong to you unintentionally, be patient and in peace with them ;
Do not let others talk behind their back and reveal the deficiencies of your neighbors here and there .
Giving priority to the neighbors. It is narrated from Imam Hassan (AS) that Lady Fatima al-Zahra (AS) used to pray firstly for the neighbors and then for members of the family .
According to Imam Sadiq (AS), having good behavior and interaction with neighbors increases the provision (Rizq) . Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) advised to respect neighbors as much as one should respect his\her mother  and he (PBUH) said: “God bless whoever does good to his\her neighbors” . On the contrary, whoever sleeps peacefully at night while one of the his\her neighbors is hungry, God will deprive him of his blessings on the judgment day . The same will happen to whoever annoys his\her neighbors .
Take your time and think about these attitudes towards the neighbors. Life will be surely much agreeable and peaceful if we improve our social interactions with our neighbors within the Islamic framework.
Having a good companion is known as a blessing; on the contrary, a bad one is like a disaster . Friends and companions have certain rights one over the other including:
To interact with them with generosity as much as you can, otherwise, be fair to them ;
To be smiling when you meet them and to receive them modestly ;
To respect them as they respect you ;
To be the first one who does good to the other one, otherwise, try to compensate properly ;
To help them in difficulties and whenever they are in need, as Imam Ali (AS) advised to ;
To hold them in great affection according to Imam Ali (AS) ;
Not to reveal their deficiencies and mistakes;
To encourage them in obedience to God and to prevent them from committing sins ;
To be honest with them and not to cheat ; e.g., nor to talk behind their back neither to reveal their deficiencies and to guard their secrets;
To be trustworthy whenever they rely on you .
The enemy here means a person whom one is in conflict with. There are some recommendations in Islamic resources on how to treat enemies and what is one's responsibility in Islam towards them:
To be fair with them . According to Imam Sadiq (AS), a real believer (Mu'min) does not oppress his\her enemies ;
To testify in favor of the enemies if they are right  even if your testimony is against yourself ;
To keep the promises you made to your enemies ;
To forgive and tolerate them, if possible . According to Imam Ali (AS), there is a virtue in forgiving enemies ;
To talk nicely and shortly with whoever you have complained of , to argue with them in a way that is best (16:125), and not to ignore their rights if ever you are wrong .
- M. Shoueiri “Jami’ al-Akhbar”, p. 84.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 7, p. 51.
- Imam Zayn al-'Abidin (AS), “Treatise On Rights (Risalat al-Huquq)”.
- responsibility towards others
- Shaykh al-Saduq, "Ilal Al-Shara'i", p. 181
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 666.
- Shaykh al-Saduq, “Al-Amali”, p. 288.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 2, p. 668.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, T. 4719-4720.
- “Nahj al Balaqa”, p. 494.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, T. 9665.
- Ibn Shu’bah, “Tuhaf al-Uqul”, p. 88.
- Shaykh al-Kulayni, “Al-Kafi”, vol. 1, p. 47.
- Shaykh al-Saduq, “Sifat al-Shia”, p. 24.
- “Nahj al Balaqa”, p. 53.
- “Ghurar al-Hikam wa Durar al-Kalim”, p. 435.