Fasting and Eating During Ramadan

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Iftar in Istanbul
The Ramadan fast is required of all Muslims who have reached puberty. Devout Muslims fast everyday for the entire lunar month of Ramadan. Less devout may fast only on important days. Muslims that do fast the entire month say the first couple of days are the hardest, but once you get past that its not so bad. "I was almost blinded by a headache," one woman of her first fast sayd, "I had a splitting headache most of the day, a terrible headache, and I didn't understand why this would be anything that God could possibly want." Fasting is something than one does within oneself. It is easy to cheat and sneak a snack or a drink without anyone finding out.

The daily fasts helps the faithful understand the suffering of the hungry and cleans their body.Houston Rocket basketball Hakeen Olajuwan observed the month-long fast when it fell in the middle of the basketball season. When he played during Ramadan he said he felt, "lighter, faster, much more mentally focused."

Javeed Akhter wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “Hunger is not a problem, nor is thirst, but the lack of sleep is. I rise at 4:30 to eat and pray before dawn, then lie down to try to sleep for an hour or so, often without much luck...I make an effort to overcome the faults in my character — my impatience, my tendency to be sarcastic, my egocentric behavior to name a few...I will further dedicate myself to the protection of human rights.”

Akhter wrote, “My first memory of the expression of pure bliss on my father’s face as he drank a tall glass of ice-cold lemonade after he had broken the daily fast...At that time, my father was a government physician in a small town called Bhainsa in central India, where temperatures in the summer routinely exceed 100 degrees. After seeing patients in the hospital, he and an assistant would get on their bikes and trundle down narrow, unpaved streets to make house calls...My father made no concessions to his schedule during Ramadan. When he would return home just before sunset , he was exhausted and dehydrated.”

Other religions incorporate fasting — Christians sometimes fast during Lent and Jews do it on Yom Kippur — but they are generally not undertaken with the same rigor and determination and for as long a period of time as Ramadan is embraced by Muslims. Devout Orthodox Russians are among most serious Christian fasters.

Websites and Resources: Islam IslamOnline ; Institute for Social Policy and Understanding; ; Islamic City ; BBC article ; University of Southern California Compendium of Muslim Texts ; Encyclopædia Britannica article on Islam ; Islam at Project Gutenberg ; Muslims: PBS Frontline documentary frontline

Meaning of Ramadan Fasting

image of fasting in Kashmir

The Qur’an itself does not have a lot to say on the matter: It simply tells the faithful: “Fasting is decreed for you as it was decreed for those before you.” One imam told the Washington Post, “It’s that simple. Allah is the only one who has the right to tell us how to worship and it is not for us to choose how and when.”

Ramadan fasting is more than simply not eating and honoring all the restrictions. The faithful most also act with high moral character , not harm anyone or perform ant evil deeds. They fast is expected to cleans one both physically and morally and help one feel reborn and reconnected after it is finished.

A saying attributed to Muhammad goes: “God does not need your fasting if you do not leave off talking badly or abusing people or making quarrels...You must control yourself, be patient and change yourself. And also, if someone comes and fights or quarrels with you, say: I am fasting, Don’t do this.” Or you will lose your reward.” Muhammad is also said to have stressed the importance of purity of word and deed: “Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, [let him know] God is not in need of his giving up his food and drink.”

Avoiding the Ramadan Fast and Pressures to Maintain It

Those that are exempt from the Ramadan fast include young children, pregnant women, the ill or infirm, those traveling or engaging in heavy manual labor, the elderly, and women who are nursing or having their period. Those that are exempt are expected to make up for it by fasting later an equal number of days to the days the days they missed.

Although they are not really supposed to, many Muslims escape the discomfort of hunger and thirst by sleeping until sundown. It more acceptable to take a nap or sleep after the morning meal, which often starts around 5:00am after morning prayers.

Muslims look forward to having Ramadan in the winter because the shorter daylight hours means that they don't have to fast as long as do in the summer when they sometimes have to wait until 8:00 or 9:00pm, depending on the latitude of their country, to eat. Turks joke about outlawing daylight savings time and heading to Australia or Chile when Ramadan is in the summer time.

Charles F. Gallagher wrote in the “International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences” While violations are found both among bedouin and rural elements, on the one hand, and in secret in a few modernist and intellectual circles, on the other, townsmen in most Muslim countries tend to keep the fast unanimously. Public opinion strongly reproves individuals who try to avoid the obligation in private and has, even recently, reacted violently to public disregard of it. There appears also to be a discernible connection between rigorous observance and modern nationalism in some countries where Islam was used as a rallying point in the struggle against foreign colonialism, and some states (e.g., Morocco) have inserted penalties for transgressing it in their modern penal codes. In a few Muslim states, however (e.g., Turkey and Tunisia), where the holy law (shari’ah) has been abolished, the secularist orientation of their nationalism has led the governments to encourage fastbreaking in the interest of national economic imperatives or to consider it a matter of personal conscience. [Source: Charles F. Gallagher, “International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences”, 1960s,]

Sawn: Fasting

pregnant women are exempt from fasting during Ramadan

Sawm is fasting. It's the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam. Muslims are required to fast during 29 to 30 says of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. the hours of daylight. The fast during Ramadan is intended to bring the faithful closer to God and to remind them of the suffering of those less fortunate, who often don't have access to food and water. It is also viewed as a time to exercise self-control, and as a cleanse for the mind, body and spirit. Many Muslims liken the fasting to a spiritual detox. Fasting includes not eating and drinking anything during daylight hours: no water, not even medicine. The faithful also abstain from smoking, including passive smoking, and sex.

According to the BBC: “Muslims who are physically or mentally unwell may be excused some of these, as may those who are under twelve years old, the very old, those who are pregnant, breast-feeding, menstruating, or travelling. If an adult does not fast for the reasons above they should try to make up the fast at a later date, or make a donation to the poor instead. Muslims do not only abstain from physical things during Ramadan. They are also expected to do their best to avoid evil thoughts and deeds as well. [Source: BBC, September 8, 2009 |::|]

“There are many good reasons for this fast, including; 1) Obeying God; 2) Learning self-discipline; 3) Becoming spiritually stronger; 4) Appreciating God's gifts to us; 5) Sharing the sufferings of the poor and developing sympathy for them; 6) Realizing the value of charity and generosity; 7) Giving thanks for the Holy Qur'an, which was first revealed in the month of Ramadan; 8) Sharing fellowship with other Muslims; and 9) reminding youself of your human frailty and your dependence on God for sustenance. |::|

Hadith on Fasting

Hadith on fasting, collected by al-Bukhari (d. 870): Volume 1, Book 2, Number 50: Narrated Abu Jamra: “I used to sit with Ibn 'Abbas and he made me sit on his sitting place. He requested me to stay with him in order that he might give me a share from his property. So I stayed with him for two months. Once he told (me) that when the delegation of the tribe of 'Abdul Qais came to the Prophet, the Prophet asked them, "Who are the people (i.e. you)? (Or) who are the delegate?" They replied, "We are from the tribe of Rabi'a." Then the Prophet said to them, "Welcome! O people (or O delegation of 'Abdul Qais)! Neither will you have disgrace nor will you regret." They said, "O Allah's Apostle! We cannot come to you except in the sacred month and there is the infidel tribe of Mudar intervening between you and us. So please order us to do something good (religious deeds) so that we may inform our people whom we have left behind (at home), and that we may enter Paradise (by acting on them)." Then they asked about drinks (what is legal and what is illegal). The Prophet ordered them to do four things and forbade them from four things. He ordered them to believe in Allah Alone and asked them, "Do you know what is meant by believing in Allah Alone?" They replied, "Allah and His Apostle know better." Thereupon the Prophet said, "It means:
To testify that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and Muhammad is Allah's Apostle.
To offer prayers perfectly
To pay the Zakat (obligatory charity)
To observe fast during the month of Ramadan.
And to pay Al-Khumus (one fifth of the booty to be given in Allah's Cause). [Source: Hadith on fasting, collected by al-Bukhari (d. 870 CE),, the Hadith Database at USC]

Ramadan warning in Malaysia

“Then he forbade them four things, namely, Hantam, Dubba,' Naqir Ann Muzaffat or Muqaiyar; (These were the names of pots in which Alcoholic drinks were prepared) (The Prophet mentioned the container of wine and he meant the wine itself). The Prophet further said (to them): "Memorize them (these instructions) and convey them to the people whom you have left behind."

Volume 2, Book 21, Number 242: Narrated Anas bin Malik: “Sometimes Allah's Apostle would not fast (for so many days) that we thought that he would not fast that month and he sometimes used to fast (for so many days) that we thought he would not leave fasting through-out that month and (as regards his prayer and sleep at night), if you wanted to see him praying at night, you could see him praying and if you wanted to see him sleeping, you could see him sleeping.

Volume 2, Book 23, Number 480: Narrated Abu Huraira: A Bedouin came to the Prophet and said, "Tell me of such a deed as will make me enter Paradise, if I do it." The Prophet (p.b.u.h) said, "Worship Allah, and worship none along with Him, offer the (five) prescribed compulsory prayers perfectly, pay the compulsory Zakat, and fast the month of Ramadan." The Bedouin said, "By Him, in Whose Hands my life is, I will not do more than this." When he (the Bedouin) left, the Prophet said, "Whoever likes to see a man of Paradise, then he may look at this man." Volume 3, Book 31, Number 118: Narrated Abu Huraira: “Allah's Apostle said, "Fasting is a shield (or a screen or a shelter). So, the person observing fasting should avoid sexual relation with his wife and should not behave foolishly and impudently, and if somebody fights with him or abuses him, he should tell him twice, 'I am fasting." The Prophet added, "By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is better in the sight of Allah than the smell of musk. (Allah says about the fasting person), 'He has left his food, drink and desires for My sake. The fast is for Me. So I will reward (the fasting person) for it and the reward of good deeds is multiplied ten times."

“Volume 3, Book 31, Number 145: Narrated 'Abdullah: The Prophet fasted for days continuously; the people also did the same but it was difficult for them. So, the Prophet forbade them (to fast continuously for more than one day). They slid, "But you fast without break (no food was taken in the evening or in the morning)." The Prophet replied, "I am not like you, for I am provided with food and drink (by Allah)."

Sunnah on Fasting

The Sunnahs are the practices and examples drawn from the Prophet Muhammad's life. Along with the Hadiths they are the most important texts in Islam after the Qur’an. They must adhere to a strict chain of narration that ensures their authenticity, taking into account factors such as the character of people in the chain and continuity in narration. Reports that fail to meet such criteria are disregarded.

The Sunnah reads: “A keeper of fasts, who does not abandon lying and slandering, God cares not about his leaving off eating and drinking. “Keep fast and eat also, stay awake at night and sleep also, because verily there is a duty on you to your body, not to labor overmuch, so that ye may not get ill and destroy yourselves; and verily there is a duty on you to your eyes, ye must sometimes sleep and give them rest; and verily there is a duty on you to your wife, and to your visitors and guests that come to see you; ye must talk to them; and nobody hath kept fast who fasted always; the fast of three days in every month is equal to constant fasting: then keep three days' fast in every month. [Source: Charles F. Horne, ed., The Sacred Books and Early Literature of the East, (New York: Parke, Austin, & Lipscomb, 1917), Vol. VI: Medieval Arabia, pp. 11-32]

Children and Ramadan Fasting

The Ramadan fast is required of all Muslims who have reached puberty as we said before. Children generally start fasting for half days when they are around six to develop disciple and fast full days for the first time around the age of 9 to 11, when the first fast is treated as a sort of coming of age ritual.

Although fasting is not required of young children, many Muslim children like to fast to share in the month's rituals and emulate parents and older siblings, according to the Islamic Networks Group (ING). Associated Press reported: When Dr. Aifra Ahmed’s children were younger, the Pakistani American physician and her husband would share insight about Ramadan with their classmates, reading to them a Ramadan story and distributing goodie bags with such things as dates. Hussein Mortada, a 17-year-old senior at Dearborn High, said family solidarity is invaluable during Ramadan. “In my family, everybody’s fasting,” Mortada said. “Everybody’s going through the same thing. The whole month is meant for you to get closer to God and make your religion stronger." [Source: Corey Williams, Giovanna Dell'orto, Mariam Fam and Darren Sands, Associated Press March 16, 2024]

In Washington, D.C., Abdul Fouzi has two daughters, ages 8 and 12, who have gradually learned the meaning and rituals of Ramadan. Growing up in Sierra Leone in the 1980s, Fouzi said he was fasting for a full day as early as age 11. But he has not pushed his elder daughter to do likewise. “They’re still pretty young so they’re not ready to go the whole day without food or water,” he said. “They’re not built like that.” Still, he wants them to get used to the idea; this year he’d like them to experiment with fasting for a half day. To Fouzi, more important than strict adherence to the rules at their age is their understanding of Ramadan’s meaning and the importance of praying for peace. “They make up their own little rules and find loopholes figuring out how they want to participate in and practice Ramadan in different ways, and I’m okay with that,” he said.

Eating During Ramadan

Iftar in Patterson, New Jersey
Food can be eaten before the first signs of dawn and after sunset. There are no limits on what one can eat during the hours of darkness. Often big meals with special foods and breads are prepared in the evening and sometimes social gatherings go on all night.

“Iftar” and "saum" are names of meal eaten after the sunset prayer to break the fast. “suhur” (also spelled “sahur” or “sohoor”) is the meal before the fast. It usually begins about an before dawn. If a man can not make it home for the iftar he can stop at a mosque to eat. The meal often being with a single date and a drink of water — this is believed to be how Muhammad ended his fasts — or a simple meal of fruit, dates, water, yoghurt, milk and juice.

Many break their fast as the Prophet Muhammad did around 1,400 years ago, with a sip of water and some dates at sunset followed by prayer. It is common for Muslims to break their fast with family and friends and charities organise free meals for the public at mosques and other public spaces. Families and friends get up early for suhoor, the last meal eaten before the sun rises, and at the end of a day of fasting, gather for iftar, the breaking of the fast at sunset. [Source: Al Jazeera, June 6, 2016]

According to the BBC: “During Ramadan many Muslims will try to eat a large meal called suhur just before dawn. When daylight is over, most Muslims will break or open the fast with dates or water, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad, before having a proper meal later. The evening meals during Ramadan are occasions for family and community get-togethers. Some mosques lay out trays of free food during Ramadan for iftar.

Gaining Weight During Ramadan

One Egyptian man told the New Yorker, “Everyone gains weight. You sit in a café until midnight and then you go to friends houses and eat till two in the morning or later. Then you sleep some and wake up before sunrise to have some cheese or yoghurt to get you through the day.” A Moroccan added, “Unemployment is so high that a lot of people, especially young guys, sit around all day, playing cards and thinking about food.”

Jennifer Williams wrote in Vox: “Some of you may be thinking, "Wow, that sounds like a great way to lose weight! I'm going to try it!" But in fact, Ramadan is actually notorious for often causing weight gain. That's because eating large meals super early in the morning and late at night with a long period of low activity bordering on lethargy in between can wreak havoc on your metabolism. [Source: Jennifer Williams, Vox, June 7, 2016 ^/^]

“But if you're careful, you can avoid putting on weight, and you may actually lose a few pounds. One meta-analysis of scientific studies on the effects of Ramadan fasting on body weight found that "[w]eight changes during Ramadan were relatively small and mostly reversed after Ramadan, gradually returning to pre-Ramadan status. Ramadan provides an opportunity to lose weight, but structured and consistent lifestyle modifications are necessary to achieve lasting weight loss." So just like with any other extreme diet plan, you may lose a few pounds, but unless you actually make "structured and consistent lifestyle modifications," you're probably not going to see major, lasting results.”^/^

Free Food and Expensive Iftars in Dubai

Common iftar dish
Reporting from Dubai, Jason Benham and Warda Al-Jawahiry of Reuters wrote: “Hundreds of Asian laborers sit silently on the floor outside Dubai’s Fatima Hassan Mosque in front of plates laden with fruit, pakoras and biryani as they wait patiently in the energy-sapping humidity to begin their Ramadan iftar. [Source: Jason Benham and Warda Al-Jawahiry, Reuters, August 15, 2011 /~/]

“Nearby, sweat-drenched volunteers hastily scoop the deep-fried vegetables and the rice-based dishes of stewed meats from huge metal urns on to plates for the last of their weary guests, as they count down the final minutes until the sun disappears from the horizon, the moment they can break their daily dawn-to-dusk fast in the Muslim holy month due to end as August closes. Many of the migrant workers are paid less that 1,000 dirhams ($272) a month and often have large debts. /~/

“The mosque, situated downtown just yards from Dubai’s creek — the location of the emirate’s original trading hub when it was just a small trade and fishing centre — provides a free iftar for the poor every day during the holy month, cooking enough rice, mutton or chicken to feed some 1,500-1,800 workers in one sitting.“We hardly have any waste. Whatever is left over we serve to people. We call the people over and give it to them,” said Nour Muhammad, a sales coordinator who volunteers to serve food. /~/

“Not all iftars in Dubai are simple meals provided for the poor. Iftars at the top end venues are often pricey, with some charging as much as 200 dirhams ($55) per person. “They see Ramadan as a possibility to squeeze a non-alcoholic consuming demographic and the economy has been slow for a while,” said Mishaal al-Gergawi, a current affairs commentator in the United Arab Emirates. Dubai is renowned for its flashy living and the luxurious banquets at hotels and restaurants to accommodate the demands of wealthy consumers who want the best fresh food at their iftar feasts. The emirate boasts a number of luxurious hotels — including the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab — many of which lay on massive iftars for those who can afford it.” /~/

Ramadan Foods

iftar, breaking the fast meal

Dates are traditionally the first things eaten to break the fast. Dates are of the few foods that grows in the desert. They come from palms found at oases. Many Muslims like to break the fast in a mosque with a meal of dates, oranges and other fruits.

Many Muslims break the fast with a light meal of fruit juice and soup and have a big dinner in the middle of the night. Other have a meal ready with dates, rice, chicken and a bowl of “mulokhia” — a soupy, spinach-like dish spooned over rice — and dig in immediately after the sun goes down. Many people eat sweets like “saiwiyan”, noodles cooked with milk, sugar and coconut, and candy made with nuts, honey and sesame seeds. Deserts and pastries made with walnuts and honey are popular in other places.

Most Muslim nationalities and cultures have special foods that are eaten during Ramadan. Egyptians eat butter cookies, raisin and walnut pancakes, beef stew with okra and onions and a pita bred casserole topped with rice, chicken and broth. Pakistanis eat dates, "pakora" (balls of vegetables and beans), “biryanu” (rice steamed with spices), diced mixed vegetables and raita yoghurt sauce, and a variety of fruit which is diced and mixed with yoghurt pepper and chaat masala.

Ramadan dishes served in Iran include Aashe-e Resshteh (a soup made with several kinds of beans, noodles and a kind of smelly dried whey called "kashk". Donuts are given to children. Dishes served in Morocco include lost of sweets such as "shebakiya" (sesame cookies) and "haloua zoumita" (nut candy).

Turks eat Lentil soup, butter rice, lamb stew, rice and bean pilaf, Turkish bread and a green salad. Desert consists of rice pudding with black tea. Ramadan dishes served in India include “dahl wada” (flour dumplings in yogurt), “bhajiya” (deep fried onions), “mirchi” (stuffed peppers) and “khir” (rice pudding and nuts).

Ramadan Headaches and Relief For Them

Grumbling stomachs, headaches, weakness and exhaustion. are some of the physical symptoms Muslims experience during Ramadan About four in every ten people who abstain from food and water all day during the month-long Ramadan period get headaches according to a Israeli study published in the journal Headache in August 2011. “Religious fasting is associated with headache,” wrote lead researcher Michael Drescher, from Hartford Hospital in Connecticut, the United States, “This has been documented as the ‘Yom Kippur headache’ and ‘first of Ramadan headache.': Doctors aren’t quite sure what causes the problem. It could be dehydration, or caffeine withdrawal in people who are used to getting their morning coffee, Drescher told Reuters. “There’s probably more than one thing going on,” he added. [Source: Reuters, August 23, 2011]

recommended for Ramadan headache

Reuters reported: “A painkilling, anti-inflammatory drug may help prevent headaches in Muslims fasting for Ramadan, according to the study. Drescher and his Israel-based colleagues had already shown that Jews who took the drug known as etoricoxib, or Arcoxia, before fasting for 25 hours on the Yom Kippur holiday got fewer headaches than those who didn‘t. Arcoxia, a cousin of the painkiller Vioxx, isn’t approved for use in the United States because the Food and Drug Administration decided it was too similar to Vioxx, which Merck pulled from the market in 2004 when it was linked to a higher risk of heart attack. But Arcoxia is available in Israel, among other countries.

“The drug has a longer-lasting effect than some other painkillers, which is important because taking a pill in the middle of the day when a headache sets in would be considered breaking the fast. “If you take Tylenol (acetaminophen)... by the time you get around to feeling the effects of the fast, the medicine is long out of your system,” Drescher said.

To see how Arcoxia would work during Ramadan, the researchers assigned 222 adults planning to fast in 2010 to either take the drug or an inactive placebo pill just before the start of fasting each day. All participants recorded how often they had a headache, and how severe it was. After a week they switched treatments. During the first day of fasting, when headaches are thought to be most common, 21 percent of people taking Arcoxia reported having a headache, compared to 46 percent of those who took the placebo pill. The Arcoxia group also reported fewer total headaches during that first week, the researchers wrote. And when they did have headaches, they rated them as less severe than participants taking the placebo. After a week, there was no longer any difference in symptoms between the groups, partly because even the people taking the placebo reported fewer headaches during fasting as time went on.

Health Tips on Fasting for Ramadan

Professor Saghir Akhtar wrote for the BBC: “Ramadan is a month where believers learn to exercise self-control. A major facet of this is the abstinence from food and drink that is prescribed to all healthy Muslims during the hours of sunrise to sunset. Although the sick are exempt, many continue to fast and therefore abstain not only from eating and drinking water but also from consuming oral medications and intravenous nutritional fluids. This article provides a personal reflection on what advice might be pertinent for fasting Muslims in good health and those on medication. [Source: Saghir Akhtar, BBC, July 5, 2011 |::|]

“During years where Ramadan falls in the winter, and the long hot days of the summer a mere distant memory, most of the health problems are likely to arise from inappropriate diet, over-eating and insufficient sleep. Firstly, there is no need to consume excess food at Iftar (the food eaten immediately after sunset to break the fast), dinner or Sahur (the light meal generally eaten about half an hour to one hour before dawn). |::|

“The reasons for this are two-fold. Firstly and most importantly such a lifestyle contradicts the principal aims and spirit of Ramadan. A learned scholar once said that "There is no receptacle more odious to God, than a belly stuffed full of food after a fast" and therefore "of what use is the Fast as a means of conquering God's enemy and abating appetite, if at the time of breaking it one not only makes up for all one has missed during the daytime, but perhaps also indulges in a variety of extra foods?" Indeed, there is a concern that it is becoming customary for some to "stock up" for Ramadan, so that more is consumed during this time than in the course of several other months combined. It is therefore worth reflecting on the true objective of fasting which is to experience hunger and to check desire in an attempt to reinforce the soul in piety. |::|

“Secondly, the body has regulatory mechanisms that reduce the metabolic rate and ensure efficient utilization of the body's fat reserves in times of hunger. Add to this the fact that most people assume a more sedentary lifestyle whilst fasting and the implication is that a balanced diet that is even less in quantity that normal will be sufficient to keep a person healthy and active during the month of Ramadan. |::|

preparing iftar at Iman Reza Shrine in Mashhad, Iran

“It is recommended that everyone engage in some kind of light exercise, such as stretching or walking. Exercise, together with a balanced diet, should help everyone watch their weight during Ramadan. Anyone overweight should increase the amount of exercise and reduce the amount of food intake to help reduce weight. It is also important to follow good time management procedures for Ibada (prayer and other religious activities), sleep, studies, work, and physical activities or exercise. A good balance in the amount of time attributed for each activity will lead to a healthier body and mind in Ramadan. |::|

What You Should Eat During Ramadan

Professor Saghir Akhtar wrote for the BBC: To remain healthy during Ramadan, normal quantities of food from the major food groups: bread and cereal, milk and dairy product, fish, meat and poultry, bean, vegetable and fruit should be consumed. (Vegetarians and Vegans should amend this list as appropriate). Intake of fruits after a meal is strongly suggested. In actual fact, our diet in Ramadan should not differ very much from our normal diet and should be as simple as possible. The diet should be such that we maintain our normal weight, neither losing nor gaining. However, if one is over-weight, Ramadan is an ideal time to shed those extra pounds! [Source: Saghir Akhtar, BBC, July 5, 2011 |::|]

“In view of the long hours of fasting, we should consume the so-called 'complex carbohydrates' or slow digesting foods at Sahur so that the food lasts longer (about 8 hours) making you less hungry during the day. These complex carbohydrates are found in foods that contain grains and seeds like barley, wheat, oats, millet, semolina, beans, lentils, wholemeal flour, and unpolished rice. In contrast, refined carbohydrates or fast-digesting foods last for only 3 to 4 hours and may be better taken at Iftar to rapidly restore blood glucose levels. Fast-burning foods include foods that contain sugar and white flour. Dates are an excellent source of sugar, fibre, carbohydrates, potassium and magnesium and have been recommended since the days of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a good way of breaking the fast. |::|

“Fried foods, very spicy foods and foods containing too much sugar such as sweets, the delight of many Muslims, can cause health problems and should be limited during Ramadan. They cause indigestion, heartburn, and weight problems. Fasting can often increase gastric acidity levels in the stomach causing a burning feeling, a heaviness in the stomach and a sour mouth. This can be overcome by eating foods rich in fibre such as whole wheat bread, vegetables, humus, beans and fruits. These foods trigger muscular action, churning and mixing of food, breaking it into small particles, and thus help reduce the build up of acid in the stomach. |::|

“Drinking of sufficient water and juices between Iftar and sleep to avoid dehydration and for detoxification of the digestive system should be encouraged in fasting individuals. However, the intake of large amounts of caffeine-containing beverages should be avoided especially at Sahur. For example, drinking too much tea will make one pass more urine and inevitably cause the loss of valuable mineral salts that your body would otherwise need during the day. Fruits such as bananas are a good source of potassium, magnesium and carbohydrates. However, bananas can cause constipation and their intake has to be balanced with adequate fibre intake. |::|

enjoying iftar at Iman Reza shrine

Advice for the Sick Who Fast During Ramadan

Professor Saghir Akhtar wrote for the BBC: “Ramadan fasting is obligatory for the healthy adult but when fasting may significantly affect the health of the fasting individual or when one is genuinely sick, Islam exempts him from fasting. "God intends every facility for you, he does not want to put you into difficulties" (Quran 2:185). However, a significant number of ill patients, for whatever reasons, do decide to observe the fast. And it is these patients who need to seek the opinion of health professionals on an individual basis. [Source: Saghir Akhtar, BBC, July 5, 2011 |::|]

“Those suffering from minor ailments really do not have any problems fasting. Those suffering from acute conditions may need advice about altering their dosing regimen i.e. the amount and frequency of their medication. Drugs that are normally required to be taken frequently, such as many antibiotics, can be problematic for the fasting patient. However, the increasing availability of alternative drugs with long half-lives (circulation times in the body) and the increasing formulation of short-acting drugs as sustained release preparations have offered much needed assistance to fasting patients. |::|

“For example patients suffering from acute upper respiratory infections such as a severe sore throat may still be able to fast. Normally such a patient may be prescribed antibiotics that have to be taken 3 or 4 times a day and would not be able to fast. However in order to facilitate fasting, the patient could be given a long-acting antibiotic such as Septrin (co-trimaxozole), which only needs to be taken once every 12 hours, or Zithromax (azithromycin), which only needs to be taken once daily. This can only be done when the infecting organisms are treatable with the alternative antibiotics and this needs to be discussed with the patient's own medical practitioner on a case-by-case basis. |::|

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons except pregnant woman, Dreamstime

Text Sources: Internet Islamic History Sourcebook: ; Arab News, Jeddah; “Islam, a Short History” by Karen Armstrong; “A History of the Arab Peoples” by Albert Hourani (Faber and Faber, 1991); “World Religions” edited by Geoffrey Parrinder (Facts on File Publications, New York); “Encyclopedia of the World’s Religions” edited by R.C. Zaehner (Barnes & Noble Books, 1959); Metropolitan Museum of Art,, National Geographic, BBC, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Smithsonian magazine, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Library of Congress and various books and other publications.

Last updated April 2024

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