Ramadan – food, virtues, health and periods

It’s that time of the year again for all of us Muslims – a spiritual cleanse in this holy month of Ramadan.

In this first week of fasting, I have eaten so much mouth-watering food. We fast from dawn till sunset and so when the food comes along at iftar time (when we break fast), we break our fast with all these different types of food and a newfound appreciation of eating. When we break our fast, we eat healthy food such as dates; they have just the right amount of sugar level to provide us the energy we have been lacking all day. We drink lots of water to keep us hydrated for the next fasting day. And of course, fruits are always a must – strawberries, kiwis, grapes, blueberries, watermelon, raspberries, cherries.

Of course, Ramadan is not just about food. But rather the built up of being a better person. Through fasting, we learn patience and control. We empathise with the less fortunate who struggle with food and shelter. We aim to strengthen our faith in Allah through recitation of the Quran (the Islamic holy book). Fasting also teaches us how to be the best version of ourselves by being extra hard-working; we fast while at school and in the workplace. A lot of us also have exams this month and though it is difficult to fast and sit in a three-hour exam, we put our mind to the test by trying our very hardest and best. By the end of the fasting month, we enter into Eid-Ul-Fitr (the Muslim festival marking the end of Ramadan) feeling like we worked our hardest.

Ramadan has also been proven to physically benefit the body and a quick search on the internet will give you all the details you need. The body cleans itself of toxins and our cells rejuvenate by the end of the fasting month. In the 30 days of fasts, our body goes through stages; the first day of fasting is the hardest as it is a sudden and abrupt change to our diet and our body reacts by our blood pressure and sugar levels dropping. This lasts a few days due to the intense hunger. By the second stage, our body becomes accustomed to the fasting schedule and the digestive system rests. Our cells begin to heal as the white blood cells are activated and the organs begin to repair as well. Stage three; our body is very used to this schedule now and our energy levels increase. The toxins are eliminated from the kidney, lungs and liver. Stage 4 takes place during the last ten days of Ramadan. We have improved memory and concentration and our body is finishing off the healing process and functioning at its full capacity. This is also the perfect time to improve our iman (faith) given that one of the odd nights of the last ten nights of Ramadan could be Laylat al-Qadr, the night the Quran was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

This benefit to our health had me pondering whether or not women are affected the same way men are in this month. For women, this fasting month is a little different. The reason behind this being periods – yes ladies that time of the month just about affects everything. When women are on their periods in Ramadan, we are not able to fast. There are different scholarly views to do with this, one being that the loss of blood weakens a woman and to fast during this time will be a burden and cause too much difficulty. And so we have a week break in this month where we go back to eating normally; breakfast, lunch and dinner. I didn’t necessarily do any research on this but in my own opinion, I feel like this alters the cleansing process due to the abrupt change in diet once again. I feel that due to biology, Ramadan affects men and women differently. However, I believe it does still affect us all for the better.

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