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Benefits of Ramadan

MUHAMMAD AWAIS TAHIR Muhammad.Awais.Tahir@gmail.com

In the name of Allah the beneficent, the Merciful

Benefits of Ramadan!
Ramadan, the guest of Allah that visits us every year. There are great wisdoms in the divine order of Fasting the month of Ramadan. Ramadan, is a golden chance for us to earn loads of good deeds and get our sins washed. The greatest benefits of Ramadan are the spiritual ones. Ramadan, strengthens our connection with Allah. Furthermore, there are many psychological and medical benefits of Fasting and Qiyam ul Lail, the night prayer (Taraweeh). Let us have a look at few of countless blessings of Ramadan Kareem.

Virtues (Fadail) of Ramadan
There are various Ahadith on the virtues of fasting and Ramadan and it is not feasible to cite all of them here. However I will present a bouquet of Ahadith pertaining to the virtues of Ramadan. (1)There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Raiyan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said, 'Where are those who used to observe fasts?' They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it (Sahih Bukhari) (2)When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained (Sahih Bukhari) (3)Allah said, 'All the deeds of Adam's sons (people) are for them, except fasting which is for Me, and I will give the reward for it.' Fasting is a shield or protection (from the fire and from committing sins) (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith e Qudsi) (4)Whoever prayed at night in it the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his previous sins will be forgiven (Sahih Bukhari) (5)Whoever fasted the month of Ramadan out of sincere Faith (i.e. belief) and hoping for a reward from Allah, then all his past sins will be forgiven (Sahih Bukhari) (6)By Him in Whose Hands my soul is' the unpleasant smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk (Sahih Bukhari) (7)Every good action is rewarded by ten times its kind, up to seven hundred times, except fasting, which is for Me, and I reward it (Mawtta Imam Malik) (8)Every servant of Allah who observes fast for a day in the way of Allah, Allah would remove, because of this day, his face farther from the Fire (of Hell) to the extent of seventy years' distance (Sahih Muslim) (9)Abu Umaama (RA) said: “O Messenger of Allah, command me to a deed that will benefit me in front of Allaah”. The Prophet (SAW) said: “Observe the fast as it has no equal deed”. (Sunan Nasai, Classified as Sahih by Allama Albani) (10)Five (daily) prayers and from one Friday prayer to the (next) Friday prayer, and from Ramadan to Ramadan are expiations for the (sins) committed in between (their intervals) provided one shuns the major sins. (Sahih Muslim) (11)There are two pleasures for the fasting person, one at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord; then he will be pleased because of his fasting (Sahih Bukhari)

(12)There are three people whose supplications are not rejected: Father, the person who is fasting and a traveler (Al-Saheeha by Albani) (13)The fast and the Qur'an are two intercessors for the servant of Allah on the Day of Resurrection. The fast will say: 'O Lord, I prevented him from his food and desires during the day. Let me intercede for him.' The Qur'an will say: 'I prevented him from sleeping at night. Let me intercede for him.' And their intercession will be accepted (Masnad Ahmed, Bayhqi, Allama Albani classified it as Sahih) (14)When the Prophet returned after performing his Hajj, he asked Um Sinan Al-Ansari, "What did forbid you to perform Hajj?" She replied, "Father of so-and-so (i.e. her husband) had two camels and he performed Hajj on one of them, and the second is used for the irrigation of our land." The Prophet said (to her), "Perform 'Umra in the month of Ramadan, (as it is equivalent to Hajj or Hajj with me (in reward)” (Bukhari)

Spiritual Benefits of Ramadan 1-Attaining Taqwa
Allah says in the Holy Quran, " O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that attain Taqwa" (Surah Baqarah 2:183) Hence, the real purpose of keeping fasting is to earn taqwa. The Arabic word Taqwa is translated in many ways including God consciousness, God fearing, piety, and self restraining. Taqwa is a very broad term. Allah judges people on the amount of Taqwa they possess. It is mentioned in the Holy Quran , " Surely the most honorable of you with Allah is the one with the most Taqwa" (Surah Hujrat 49:13). Holy Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) also elaborated this point in his last sermon of hajj.

2-Protection from other sins
Fast acts as a shield and protects us from other sins as mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) in his ahadith. Main purpose of fast is to suppress our vain desires and Nafs and recognize our innerself. Fasting helps us understand the reality of the world. "Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins" (Sahih Bukhari)

3-Self Restraint
When a person fasts he is constantly reminding himself not to eat or drink This is in spite of the fact that eating and drinking are perfectly lawful for him at other times. He abstains from these otherwise lawful acts on account of Allah's promise, in hopes of attaining Allah's reward. It naturally follows that he will abstain from sin, from those acts that are prohibited to him at all times. A Muslim needs to understand that this is the whole idea behind fasting. How can a person abstain from food and drink - though they are lawful to him at other times - and then go on to backbite people, spread rumors, tell lies, and engage in all sorts of other sins? The Prophet said, "Whoever does not give up false statements (i.e. telling lies), and evil deeds, and speaking bad words to others, Allah is not in need of his (fasting) leaving his food and drink."(Sahih Bukhari) We know that Allah has no need for us to leave off eating and drinking in any case, even when we abstain from false words and false deeds. What this means is that fasting has not been prescribed because Allah needs us to do so, it has only been prescribed to assist us in restraining ourselves from false words and evil deeds. Therefore, if we do not abandon these things, then to what avail is our fasting?

4-Strengthning Devotion to Allah
Fasting brings to fore the reality of our subservience to Allah and it helps in our submission to Him. As Allah says in Hadith e Qudis "Fast is for Me". Fasting conditions the worshipper upon obedience and upon carrying out his religious duties. It also reminds him that he is the servant of Allah Almighty and of no one else. We see that Allah orders His servants to eat at certain times, so that if they were to fast at those times, they would be sinning. This is the case for the two Eid celebrations. This is also the case for someone who fasts consecutive days without breaking his fast at night. At other times, by contrast, the worshippers are ordered to fast, so that if they were to eat at those times, they would be sinning. This is a concept of great significance that if people would only realize it in their worship, their devotions would then have a far greater impact upon them. The state of a believer should be that of a dutiful sentinel standing at attention, whose hand is ever poised to action and who is ready to advance and go forth whenever he is commanded to do so. The importance of our worshipping Allah is one of the greatest objectives behind our fasting and behind all of our acts of devotion. Unfortunately, many Muslims fall short in their appreciation of this fact. Though they adhere to the performance of these acts of worship, their devotions are bereft of spiritual meaning and consequently fail to have the desired effect of bringing about true devotion and subservience to Allah.

5-Developing Patience
People who learn patience earn the inner bliss and peace. No matter what disaster occurs people who have learned patience have firm faith in their lord. Fasting is reffered to as a "Month of Patience". It teaches us patience. Psychologist tell us that those who can control their desire of hunger can control their all other desires be it anger, happiness etc. Hence keeping fast is a comprehensive method of learning patience. Allah says in Surah Baqarah , "And seek assistance through patience and prayer". According to some scholars patience in this verse refers to fasting.

6-Developing Character
People belonging to different religions and different parts of the world have different concept of 'good' and 'bad' deeds. One thing is to be noted that concept of good deed is dependent on an eternal life to follow this temporary one, because, if that life is not there and this is the only life than a successful person would be one who is successful, rich in this world irrespective of the fact 'how' he acquired that money and status. This disastrous concept will completely shatter the concept of good deed. In Ramadan, we are being constantly reminded of a life to follow. We abstain from eating and drinking even when we are starving , although we have a lot of food available. Reason being that we are looking for a better reward. We are waiting for the true life to come. Similarly, on a broader aspect this life is not a means of enjoyment, in fact, it is a test and the real life to enjoy awaits us.

Medical Benefits of Fasting
A true muslim performs fast not because of the 'worldly' benefits the fast earns. He keeps fast because Allah has commanded him to do so. On the other hand he also knows that whatever Allah commands him to do benefits him in both the worlds. There are many medical benefits of fasting as well. These are the 'byproducts' of fasting. Allah tells us in the Quran that He has made alcohol 'prohibited' for us because it is not in our own benefit. Similarly it is not hard to prove that pork meat is very harmful to health as well (swine flu is a hot proof). Medical

science is telling us the things now which Allah and his Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) told us 1400 years back.

1-International Congress on Health and Ramadan
In 1994 the first International Congress on "Health and Ramadan", held in Casablanca, entered 50 extensive studies on the medical ethics of fasting. While improvement in many medical conditions was noted; however, in no way did fasting worsen any patients' health or their baseline medical condition. On the other hand, patients who are suffering from severe diseases, whether type I diabetes or coronary artery disease, kidney stones, etc., are exempt from fasting and should not be allowed to fast.

2-Hunger as a Remedy
A Swiss physician Dr. Barsilus noted that: " The advantages of hunger as a remedy exceed those ingesting medicine several times" Several physicians advise patients to skip meals, sometimes for a few days, before prescribing them a controlled diet. Fasting hastens the destruction of the decaying tissues of the body by means of hunger, and then builds new tissues through nutrition. This is why some scientists suggest that fasting should be regarded as an effective means of restoring youthfulness and longevity. However, Islam exempts from fasting sick and old people whose health is bound to deter.

3-Slight Dehydration
The difference between Ramadan and total fasting is the timing of the food; during Ramadan, we basically miss lunch and take an early breakfast and do not eat until dusk. Abstinence from water for 8 to 10 hours is not necessarily bad for health and in fact, it causes concentration of all fluids within the body, producing slight dehydration. The body has its own water conservation mechanism; in fact, it has been shown that slight dehydration and water conservation, at least in plant life, improve their longevity.

4-Treatment of Diabetes
Diabetes Mellitus, disease in which the pancreas produces insufficient amounts of insulin, or in which the body’s cells fail to respond appropriately to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps the body’s cells absorb glucose (sugar) so it can be used as a source of energy. In people with diabetes, glucose levels build up in the blood and urine, causing excessive urination, thirst, hunger, and problems with fat and protein metabolism. As the glucose level builds in the body hence people suffering from diabetes avoid eating food that has greater amount of glucose. The physiological effect of fasting includes lowering of blood sugar, lowering of cholesterol and lowering of the systolic blood pressure. In fact, Ramadan fasting would be an ideal recommendation for the treatment of mild to moderate, stable, noninsulin diabetes, obesity, and essential hypertension. There is a reduction in core body temperature. This is a direct result of the slower metabolic rate and general bodily functions. Following a drop in blood sugar level and using the reserves of glucose found in liver glycogen. Hence, during fast body uses the glucose stored up in the liver glycogen and reduces the sugar level in the body. This is a very effective and natural treatment method for people suffering from diabetes.

5-Autolysis
The benefits of fasting must be preceded by a look at the body's progression when deprived of food. Due to the lack of incoming energy, the body must turn to its own resources, a function called autolysis. Autolysis is the breaking

down of fat stored in the body in order to produce energy. The liver is in charge of converting the fats into a chemical called a ketone body, "the metabolic substances acetoacetic acid and beta-hydroxybutyric acid", and then distributing these bodies throughout the body via the blood stream. "When this fat utilization occurs, free fatty acids are released into the blood stream and are used by the liver for energy." The less one eats, the more the body turns to these stored fats and creates these ketone bodies, the accumulation of which is referred to as ketosis.

6-Detoxification
Detoxification is a normal body process of eliminating or neutralizing toxins through the colon, liver, kidneys, lungs, lymph glands, and skin. This process is precipitated by fasting because when food is no longer entering the body, the body turns to fat reserves for energy. "Human fat is valued at 3,500 calories per pound," a number that would lead one to believe that surviving on one pound of fat every day would provide a body with enough energy to function normally. These fat reserves were created when excess glucose and carbohydrates were not used for energy or growth, not excreted, and therefore converted into fat. When the fat reserves are used for energy during a fast, it releases the chemicals from the fatty acids into the system which are then eliminated through the aforementioned organs. Chemicals not found in food but absorbed from one's environment, such as DDT, are also stored in fat reserves that may be released during a fast. Hence the purification of both the soul and the body is going on during the fast.

7-Healing Process
During a fast energy is diverted away from the digestive system due to its lack of use and towards the metabolism and immune system. The healing process during a fast is precipitated by the body's search for energy sources. Abnormal growths within the body, tumors and the like, do not have the full support of the body's supplies and therefore are more susceptible to autolysis. Furthermore, "production of protein for replacement of damaged cells (protein synthesis) occurs more efficiently because fewer 'mistakes' are made by the DNA/RNA genetic controls which govern this process." A higher efficiency in protein synthesis results in healthier cells, tissues and organs. This is one reason that animals stop eating when they are wounded, and why humans lose hunger during influenza. Hunger has been proven absent in illnesses such as gastritis, tonsillitis and colds. Therefore, when one is fasting, the person is consciously diverting energy from the digestive system to the immune system.

8-Benefits of Suhur (Sehri)
Fasting has been used by patients for weight management, to rest the digestive tract and for lowering lipids. There are many adverse effects of total fasting as well as of crash diets. Islamic fasting is different from such diet plans because in Ramadan fasting, there is no malnutrition or inadequate calorie intake. This 'diet programme' is very natural and efficient. We are advised by the prophet to take suhur (keep fast) as late as possible and to iftaar (open fast) as soon as possible. This is how we can get the proper benefits of fasting. If we follow the proper fasting technique that the prophet Muhammad told us than only we can earn the medical benefits hidden in fasting. If we don't take proper suhur than we are increasing our fast time and it is detriment to our health.

9-Extended Life Expectancy
The most scientifically proven advantage to fasting is the feeling of rejuvenation and extended life expectancy. A slower metabolic rate, more efficient protein production, an improved immune system, and the increased production of hormones contributes to this long-term benefit of fasting. In addition to the Human Growth Hormone that is released more frequently during a fast, an anti-aging hormone is also produced more efficiently. "The only reliable way to extend the lifespan of a mammal is under-nutrition without malnutrition."

10-Moderaion is Must
Fasting should have its regulations too, and not simply the in orderly skipping meals, that is bound to harm health and stamina, rather than improving them. Here again Islam provides the answer, and in order to realize the benefits of fasting, it recommends the late midnight meals call (before the formal start of a fast) and the breaking of the fast at the time prescribed. Of course, to ensure good health one should abstain from gluttony after breaking fast. In the holy Quran, there is a Verse gathering the whole matter of medicine. It is: "...Eat and drink but do not be excessive." (Surah Al A'araf 7:31)

Medical Benefits of Taraweeh
Muslims offer 'salat' five times daily. Salat is the most important obligation on us. Salat has a number of good effects on our body. It is a diverse topic and many books have been written on these topic. Here we will be discussing few of the medical benefits of the special prayer in Ramadan, 'Taraweeh' in connection with the fast. These medical benefits are also of secondary nature.

1-Physical and Emotional well Being
The gentle exercises performed in Taraweeh (Qiyam ul Lail) prayers improve physical fitness, emotional well-being and increase the longevity. When a little extra effort is made, as in performing the Taraweeh prayers, there will be a betterment in the endurance, stamina, in flexibility and strength. It was noted that the five daily prayers (Salat) produce the same physiological changes without any undesirable side effects as those produced by jogging or walking at about three miles per hour. Recent research studies performed on 17,000 Harvard alumni who entered college between 1916-1950 give strong evidence that only moderate aerobic exercise, equivalent to jogging about 3 miles a day, promotes good health and may actually add years to life. Men who expended about 2000 kcal of energy on a weekly basis (equal to a daily 30-minute walk, run, cycle, swim, etc.,) had one-quarter to one-third lower death rates than classmates who did little or no exercise. In addition to the health-boosting qualities of the Salat, the person will be trained to be ever ready for any unexpected physical exertion such as sudden lifting of children, chairs, or catching a public transportation vehicle. The elderly will accomplish this more securely and efficiently. Hence this is an advantage for the elderly to maintain their physical fitness for a longer period of time. It has been observed that those who fast and perform the Taraweeh prayers report feeling much convalescing and robust.

2-Effects on Skeletal Muscle
Once muscles atrophy inspite of the availability of ample proteins. During the Salat and Taraweeh, every muscle in the body contracts isotnically and others isometrically. This gentle exercise also enhances endurance and diminishes tiredness. It helps the incapacitated to make the most of their remnant capabilities. The blood flow in strung muscle is low. During the prayers the blood flow is greatly increased to the muscles. Blood flow sometimes increases even before the start of Taraweeh prayers, with just the thought of performing the Taraweeh prayers. Taraweeh prayers improve respiratory efficiency; circulation in the capillaries surrounding the alveoli, or air sacs, is increased, and this brings about enhanced gas exchange and deeper breathing. The increase in the maximal consumption of oxygen is what makes the Namazi feel better. Those who perform the Taraweeh prayers, apart from the prescribed Salat, are more alert and active than those who do not perform the Taraweeh prayers, even after the age of retirement. Taraweeh prayers improve physical strength and joint stability and reduce the risk of injury to the

tendons and connective tissues. The prayers improve lubrication of joints, movement, and maintain flexibility.

3-Expending Extra Calories
Salat improves body weight control and expend calories without proportionate increase in appetite. A combination of moderate dietary restriction, both at the Iftar and Suhur (early morning breakfast before the start of fast) meals, accompanied by the Taraweeh prayers, should achieve weight reduction. This will also reduce both fat and body weight, but fat-free weight will remain constant or may even increase slightly.

4-Medical Benefits of Sajdah (Prostration)
Normally when you stand erect, blood does flow into the brain but it is not sufficient for a healthy brain. During Salah when you go into sujood (prostration) extra blood flows into the brain, which is very important for a healthy brain. When you do sujood, this extra blood supply to the skin on the face helps prevent diseases such as chilblain etc. (Chilblain, painful inflammation of the skin of the feet, hands, or ears, due to cold. The parts turn red, swell, itch violently, and are very tender. In bad cases, the skin cracks, blisters, or ulcerates.) When you do sujood there is drainage of sinuses and there are fewer chances that a person will have sinusitis, that is inflammation of the sinus, this drainage of module sinus, of the frontal sinus, and a person has less chances of having inflammation of the sinus, that is sinusitis. When a person does sujood even the bronchitis's, the secretion of the bronchitis, they get drained, there are less chances of having bronchitis. When a person breathes normally only two thirds of the capacity of the lung is exhaled out, the remaining one third remain in the lung as a residual air, now when you do sujood the abdominal visra, they press against the diaphragm and the diaphragm presses against the lower part of the lungs, the lower lobes, and when you breath during sujood even this one third residual air is aired out and that's very important for a healthy lung. There are less chances of having diseases of the lungs.

5-Research at a Malaysian University
A top Malaysian university has discovered that the postures used during the Muslim prayer, or salat, have significant physical benefits, according to a report. Initial results from a research project by University Malaya's biomedical engineering department show that the Muslim style of praying benefits the heart and spine, while increasing the capacity for memory and attention. ((See Middle East times or World Wide Religious News WWRN 13 December 2006))

6-Other Benefits of Salat
The fact of the matter is that if we start mentioning all the benefits of the prayer we need a separate book for that, in fact a book of several volumes is required. Prayer is a divine exercise for a healthy body. Prayer is an important source of physical fitness, mental peace, spiritual bliss and it acts as a remedy for all evils. It acts as a recharger of belief. It has a positive effect on the functioning of many organs and the skeletal system. Ashraf Nizami wrote in his book Namaz (Prayer) the Yoga of Islam " Some Yogacharyas to whom the offering of prayer was explained, expressed the view that prayer consists short simplified and concise postures of the 84 yogaasans "

References

- 'The Medical Benefits of Taraweeh' by Dr. Ibrahim Syed - 'Benefits of Prostration' by Dr.Zakir Naik - 'Health Benefits of Fasting' by Will Carrol - 'The Spiritual and Health Benefits of Ramadan Fasting' by Shahid Athar, M.D.

Psychological Benefits of Fasting 1-Establishing Will Power
Fasting develops our character by strengthening our willpower and bolstering our patience. This is why fasting is sometimes referred to as patience and Ramadan is sometimes called "the month of patience". Allah says: "Seek help in patience and in prayer"(Surah Al Baqarah 2:45) Some commentators of the Qur'an have said: "The word 'patience' here refers to fasting. It means 'Seek help in fasting and prayer'." This is because fasting forces us to exercise our willpower and practice patience. Many of us need to constantly exercise our willpower to keep it strong. There is a psychological benefit in operation here. Researchers into the causes of success say that success requires three ingredients: 1. Desire: All people wish to be strong, successful, and financially well of. Desires like these exist for everyone. 2. Strength or ability: Most people have the mental and physical wherewithal and the skills that they need to succeed if they properly put their minds to it. 3. Willpower: Strong willpower is one of the greatest reasons for success in both this world and the next. Fasting strengthens the will and conditions a person to cope with difficulties in all aspects of his life. It helps to develop the very quality that only successful people possess, the quality of those people who can turn their desires into a reality by using skills and abilities that they have. Fasting helps us to establish strong will power because in fast we learn to suppress our vain desires and hence develop self-respect and self-confidence and these are the ingredients required to establish will power. We can see this feature very much in children when they keep fast for the first time. At the time of Iftaar (breaking fast), we can see that they are proud of their 'achievement' and depict a much confident and mature figure than they were before.

2-Putting a check on vain desires
Many great thinkers and biologist have accepted the hidden benefits of eating less. Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) ,in general, advised us to stop eating when there was a little hunger left. In specific, the workshop of Ramadan was laid down for a comprehensive practice of suppressing the vain desires. He who can suppress the desires of hunger and thirst can suppress other desires as well. Also a person who 'thinks' will never indulge into things Allah has forbidden during because in fast he even leaves the permitted things (eating and drinking) because Allah has ordered than how can he ever think of doing things which are not allowed in any case. This is why the Prophet gave the following advice: “O assembly of young people, whosoever among you has the wherewithal to marry should do so, as it will help him to lower his gaze and safeguard his chastity. And whoever is unable to do so should fast, because it diminishes sexual desire.” [Sahîh al-Bukhârî (5066) and Sahîh Muslim (1400)] The Prophet (peace be upon him) points out that fasting withholds a person from responding to his passions. Fasting keeps our compulsions in check by keeping us involved in a specific act of worship. This continuous connection with an act of worship helps us to refrain from unlawful acts, including those acts, like the forbidden gaze, that incite our desires.

3-Establishing Self Control
A person who doesn't have control over 'himself' is always caught in 'inferiority complex' phobia. A person who cannot control himself can never develop leadership qualities. Fasting is an effective method to develop self-control and hence build our character. Learning to refrain from eating and drinking even when there is a desire for it is all a practice of self-control. For this very reason Prophet Muhammad said that ," Fast is a shield (which helps refrain from bad deeds)".

4-Peace and Tranquility
There is a peace and tranquility for those who fast during the month of Ramadan. Personal hostility is at a minimum, and the crime rate decreases. Muslims take advice from the Prophet who said, "If one slanders you or aggresses against you, say I am fasting." This psychological improvement could be related to better stabilization of blood glucose during fasting as hypoglycemia after eating, aggravates behavior changes.

5-Overcoming the complexes
When we remain thirsty and hungry in ramadan we experience the affliction that the poor and needy people of the society experience the whole year. Hence, fasting is a way of bridging the gap between the different classes and in and out groups in the society. While fasting, poor people that all are equal in the eyes of Allah and wealth doesn't matter in Allah's eyes. "Allah doesn't look at your wealth and your body, infact he looks at your deeds". This very feeling helps the poor people to overcome the "inferiority complex". On the other hand, rich people also realize the truth of the world and feel themselves equal to the poor hence eliminating pride and "superiority complex".

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