How fasting can help one to a more disciplined and a healthy way of life

The writer, Al-Hajj Khalil Champsi (Toronto, Canada) is a professional engineer, PMP certified, and a community volunteer.

Ramadan is a month to explore and expound on the opportunity to one’s spiritual growth and develop ways to improve in one’s healthy lifestyle.

In the Quran, Chapter 2 verse 183 Allah has revealed ,’  O you who believe! fasting is prescribed for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may guard (against evil).

Fasting is a means of restraining and controlling the nafs, so that contentment (rida), and all the other blessings of this great discipline may be experienced. The fasting of the ordinary man is to withhold only from food and drink. The fasting of the pious man is to curb sensory desires, to refrain from looking at the unlawful, hearing the harmful, and thinking about the distasteful, or about what stimulates the lower nature. The fasting of a true believer is to seal the heart from paying any attention to other-than-Allah and safeguard himself with thorough awareness of the divine laws. Fasting (sawm) is one of the obligatory functions of the faith, next only to the prescribed 5 times a day prayers (salat), in importance. It trains the Muslims to guard themselves against evil as well as conditions them to suffer physical affliction and exercise self control in the defence of faith and the faithful.

Fasting, although not as perfectly regulated and decisive as in Islam, was prescribed for the followers of the previous prophets also, and was also in vogue, in varying forms, in different parts of the world. Among the Jews it was done in times of sorrow and affliction. Among the Hindus in India, fasting is undertaken as a penance or to achieve spiritual power. The Sabians were also prescribed fasting for one full month and the object of fasting among them was almost identical to Islamic fasting.

Looking at the health point of view, one can see huge benefits to fasting and improve in one’s well being

Fasting for as little as three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as “remarkable”.

Scientists at the University of Southern California say the discovery could be particularly beneficial for people suffering from damaged immune systems, such as cancer patients on chemotherapy.

It could also help the elderly whose immune system becomes less effective as they age, making it harder for them to fight off even common diseases.

The researchers say fasting “flips a regenerative switch” which prompts stem cells to create brand new white blood cells, essentially regenerating the entire immune system.

“It gives the ‘OK’ for stem cells to go ahead and begin proliferating and rebuild the entire system,” said Prof Valter Longo, Professor of Gerontology and the Biological Sciences at the University of California.

“And the good news is that the body got rid of the parts of the system that might be damaged or old, the inefficient parts, during the fasting.

“Now, if you start with a system heavily damaged by chemotherapy or ageing, fasting cycles can generate, literally, a new immune system.”

Prolonged fasting forces the body to use stores of glucose and fat but also breaks down a significant portion of white blood cells.

Fasting for 72 hours also protected cancer patients against the toxic impact of chemotherapy.

“While chemotherapy saves lives, it causes significant collateral damage to the immune system. The results of this study suggest that fasting may mitigate some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy,” said co-author Tanya Dorff, assistant professor of clinical medicine at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital.

One can practice intermittent fasting which has similar benefits . The Prophet (SAW) would fast every Monday, Thursday, and the Lunar Days which are the 13th, 14th, 15th or every Lunar Month – these days sum up to roughly one-third of the month

Ramadan Fasting or Islamic Intermittent Fasting, which is the type of fasting practiced by Muslims in Ramadan – also the same type of fasting practiced by the Prophet Muhammad (saw). 

This practice also comes with changes in sleeping and activity patterns since it is required to have a hydrating light filling meal before sunrise and fast all day until the sun is set.

Changes occur also in the  Circadian Rhythms of hormones such as CortisolInsulinLeptinGhrelinGrowth HormoneProlactineSex Hormone, and Adiponectin. 

These internal changes cause our bodies to experience physical benefits such as:

  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Reduced chances of developing cancer
  • Decreased oxidative stress 
  • Protects against degenerative disease 
  • Increased fat burning
  • Improved blood sugar control
  • Improved appetite control
  • Improved overall body inflammation
  • Increased sense of overall well being 

As for the mental and spiritual benefits:

  • Eases depression
  • Improves memory and cognition 
  • Increases vitality
  • Reduces attachment to emotional and psychological luggage
  • Cleanses the soul
  • Sparks new desire for God
  • Improves praying and/or meditating experience

The most fascinating aspect of all this is that studies have been showing evidence that not only the quality of food but also the timings we choose to eat have a major impact on the overall well-being of the body and mind.

The more we eat consciously and mindfully by paying attention to when and what we’re eating, the less we let our bodies focus on digestion and instead use the energy to self-heal from other ailments.

Even after testing positive with Covid-19,I continued with keeping fasts during the holy month of Ramadan. Based on my personal experiences, I monitored myself and discovered fasting did make a difference and offered resistance to the virus and I was not impacted with severe symptoms and was on the road to recovery faster.

At the end of the holy month of Ramadan ,one learn to be more prudent  and develop a more discipline in maintaining a healthy and keep working on ones spiritual growth and continue with intermittent fasting such as every Monday & Thursday of the week as practiced by our holy Prophet Muhammad (saw)

Reference:

  • Tafsir of Quran by Agha Puya
  • The Daily Crisp
  • Article by Sarah Knapton

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About the author

Al-hajj Khalil Champsi was born in Zanzibar ,Tanzania. His father Al-Hajj Hassan A P Champsi was a well known reciter of Duas and Ziyarats and mother Hajiani Maryam Champsi (Dr.Gulamhussein) was a Reciter and served her community in Zanzibar selflessly and her love of ahlulbayt was imprinted in herself and her family. His Great grand father Marhum Gulhussein M W Dharsi started a Gujarati monthly magazine and his pen name was Salsabil and his brother Marhum Kassamali Mammu Walli Dharsi (Bha Kassamali) who was an ardent Azadar and personally spent his fortune and establish Taziyakhana (Husssainiya ). Al-Hajj Khalil Champsi would frequently attend and visit Masjid and Mehfil/Hussainiya around the neighborhood.

Al-Hajj Khalil Champsi has taken keen interest in learning Islamic studies especially in exegesis of Quran by renowned Scholar like Allama Hussein Tabatabai. He has interacted with Many scholars to learn of various aspects of Religion. He also has been attending Fiqh and Jurisprudence classes under the esteem Scholar Hujjatil–Islam Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi.

Al-Hajj Khalil Champsi has been lecturing, teaching in Madrassah and participating in TV Shows as well .Tabligh is one the areas he always re-emphasis and participates actively .He has paid several visits to Khatmul Anbiya, a school which teaches National camp; Islamic curriculum and serves the Masai communities in the outskirts of Arusha located Tanzania in of support the great work done by Al-Hajj Ghulamhussein Mukhtar in area.

Al-Hajj Khalil Champsi is Professional Project Manager and Mechanical Engineer with several years of experiences in different countries. He has always found time to give back by participating in community projects especially in Building; Renovation of Masjids and Imam Hussainiya earlier in Dubai and now in Toronto.

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