For almost four weeks now, about two billion Muslims around the world have been observing the obligatory fast of Ramadan. For them, this is the peak period of spiritual reawakening and physical renewal since fasting helps to recalibrate one’s spiritual and physical domains. As a matter of fact, the rationale for fasting is the attainment of piety or righteousness as the Glorious Qu’ran (Q2:183) states.
The root of the problems assailing Nigeria lies in our unrighteousness, it can be argued. We are such a sinful lot with the grievous crimes we commit everyday against man and God. Nigerians kill, destroy, steal and commit all sorts of evils some of which are exported to other parts of the world thereby giving us a bad name.
We are a religious people quite all right with places of religious worship springing up everyday. Divinely called and self-appointed men of God are proliferating like never before but we are not good to one another. We fight offline and tear each other apart online for ethnic, religious and political reasons. Peace is fragile and conflict is rife among us. But if we are righteous, which is the goal of fasting, we would be accommodating, kind, good to and tolerant of one another.
As reiterated in this column on October 30, 2018 in “Religion without righteousness”, religiosity without righteousness is ultimately meaningless and counter-productive. Naraginti Reddy once put it in memorable words thus: “If there is righteousness in the heart, there will be beauty in the character. If there is beauty in the character, there will be harmony in the home. If there is harmony in the home, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.” So, the peace we so much desire in the world has to start from us as individuals if we are righteous.
In essence, a major fact on fasting is that it is about righteousness and it is important for everyone who has gone through its training to retain the lessons of kindness, compassion, generosity, self-denial, discipline, devotion, piety and commitment. The same teachings that are embedded in Ramadan also apply to fasting outside Ramadan.
But apart from being a religious obligation, there are several medical benefits of fasting for everyone who is desirous of an abundant life. It is a fact that fasting serves to detoxify or cleanse our body. Abstaining from food improves blood circulation and removes harmful toxins from the body. The body ultimately gets used to less food as fasting is an appetite suppressant.
Fasting also boosts metabolism as it controls obesity, prompting the liver’s enzymes to easily break down cholesterols and fats. Another related fact is that fasting engenders weight loss. This is due to what happens during starvation wherein the body turns to fat and utilises it by burning any stored energy. The fatty tissues are lost in the process and this makes a fasting person’s physical structure better.
Another benefit or fact of fasting is that it improves cardiovascular function which results in sound hearts and mental health by aligning the mind with mental clarity. Fasting strengthens the mind and sharpens focus due to a sharp reduction in the intake of calorie, sugar and salt.
It has also been said that fasting has the potential to slow down the ageing process and keep those who fast younger and fitter. Given that it leads to the production of restored tissues and cells in the body, the unnecessary cells are easily degraded and the body is enabled to produce collagen, which allows healthier and radiant skin.
From the psychological point-of-view, researchers have found that fasting enhances determination and will-power since it actually takes a lot of discipline to deny oneself of what has legal access to. The mental fortitude to forego immediate enjoyment is a recipe for attaining long-term goals. It also increases alertness as people who fast tend to have higher levels of vigilance and attention. The explanation for this is that food is converted to glucose by the human body and too much of it causes sluggishness.
In summation, fasting reduces stress, prevents cancer and assists in treating Alzheimer. It is established that fasting is a therapy option that significantly relieves Alzheimer’s symptoms. Fasting also reduces hypertension, increases brain function, improves body composition, reduces cancer risk, stimulates autophagy (the process by which cells and tissues recycle damaged components), lowers inflammation, regulates sleep patterns, normalises the levels of Ghrelin (a hormone responsible for hunger), improves the quality of life and enhances our inner peace.
So, fasting is good for you and me during and after Ramadan.