Lessons from the iftaar plate
  • More By Author
  • Latest
  • Web Wrap
Last Updated: Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 17:26
  
Lessons from the iftaar plateNabila Habib

A bowl of chilled custard; a glass of fresh lemonade; a steaming tray of spicy dumplings – these are just some of the reasons why Ramzan is looked forward to with joy. Every Muslim might not be devout enough to look at the month as an opportunity to practice control, but the evening feasting that comes with the month enlivens every spirit.

But this is just one aspect of the larger picture. Along with the month-long joy of good eating are attached various other benefits from fasting in Ramzan.
Science of a body on fast


Ramzan fasting involves abstinence from all kinds of food and water from dawn to dusk – roughly calculated to be around thirteen to fifteen hours of control, depending upon the season. It has been proven scientifically that fasting is a good method to relax an overworked body. During the fast, the organs involved in digestion and metabolism balance inside the body get a chance to rest and revitalize. The body gets rid of toxins when on fast. People suffering from digestive disorders often claim relief after a few days of fasting. Though not proven, but an impressive amount of statistics claim that fasting also helps in curing, or at least improving bad cases of diabetes, cholesterol, arrhythmias and arthritis.


This can easily be justified by the fact that the first few diseases mentioned required a controlled lifestyle for a cure, and fasting provides just that.


Self control, anger management


Along with the above mentioned diseases, fasting is also said to improve the condition of people suffering from hypertension. For people with a history of heart ailments, the recurring advice from doctors is a relaxed lifestyle and healthy eating. The amount of control and patience that a day-long fasting requires is significant enough change in lifestyle to keep hypertensive people out of danger. I have a personal experience. My mother is hypotensive (one suffering from low blood pressure), while my father is hypertensive (one suffering from high blood pressure – those notorious ones whose blood pressure shoots at any minor stimulus and they end up in a towering rage). After a month-long Ramazan fast, both feel better. While my father finds it easier not to get provoked into anger, my mother also claims that her head does not reel (a symptom of low blood pressure), and she feels more active and energetic.


While on a Ramazan fast, people are expected to observe a peaceful disposition, and refrain from excessive emotions. This kind of self control is akin to a mild form of meditation that one can practice while continuing with one’s day to day works.


Exercise while fasting


Fasting, when done for purely health related reasons, can acquire varied forms. Juice fasting is when you just consume small quantity of juice to quench the thirst, and don’t eat anything for a day. It can also be varied with just one kind of consumption allowed, be it water, fruits and vegetables, or boiled food. Various kinds of fasts in Hinduism follow these variations. Each kind has a benefit of its own. As fasting is also a part of religious practice in India, many myths have formed around it.


Exercising is one. They say one would do good to save one’s energy and not exercise at all while on a fast. However attractive this option might look, it is not a healthy one. On the contrary, mild exercise boosts the positive action of fasting on body. Mild physical work is recommended as long as it does not lead to physical or mental exhaustion. So, it would be good to continue with one’s daily brisk walk, or the normal everyday chores at home.


For those who follow a sedentary lifestyle, but are fasting (for health or religion), it is a good idea to include a gentle walk into the schedule. It would result in a quicker detoxification process, as well as give a boost to the spirits.


Who should not fast?


However good fasting may be, it is not advisable to all. Elderly people who are weak or small children who have not yet learnt to control their senses and emotions can forego Ramazan fasts. Some people with chronic gastric troubles can do more harm than good with a fast. Similarly, lactating and pregnant women should concentrate on eating healthy rather than going all the way and fast. With Ramazan fasts, such people are allowed to skip the fast when it could adversely affect their health. However, as soon as the malady is over, the missed fasts can be observed any time.


What to eat after a fast


After the long wait, when it is time to break the fast, the temptation to give in to all kinds of delicacies is immense. In fact, eating the right thing after breaking the fast requires a greater degree of self-control than required to just keep oneself away from food. Now is the time to let oneself go – but with caution and wisdom for the best results.


Fruits and juices are the best option. But eating very quickly can make one feel giddy as the blood would rush to the alimentary canal to speed up digestion, and the brain might be deprived of sufficient oxygen supply. So, digging into the food with gusto can be appetizing, but not very wise. A healthy balance of protein and grains can be followed after a while to keep the energy level stable. And one should keep it in mind that the human body is naturally adapted to fasts. It is not abnormal to fast. And since a body never suffers from protein deficiency, so gorging in on fatty food and red meat is as unnecessary as it is unhealthy.



A little better, perhaps!


More than a third of the month of Ramazan is over and I feel a sense of lightness within me. No, I haven’t lost any significant weight (it would have been welcome, though!) – it has more to do with a lighter spirit. It does feel good to be good once in a while – for no reason. Keeping aside money for zakat (the 2.5% of my annual saved property, or bank balance) to be given to the needy; minding my manners while interacting with people around me; not letting anger win over me; and a million other things that we only say should be followed, but we let them pass, mumbling to ourselves that ‘we are not saints’.
But self control is not a saintly trait – it is very human. I am better now than when I started at the beginning of this Ramazan. Besides, for a theist, it is very satisfying to feel that I am being approved of high up there – and will be given brownie points!

First Published: Wednesday, September 16, 2009, 17:26


(The views expressed by the author are personal)
comments powered by Disqus