Monday, August 31, 2009

Toward a higher level of fasting

It is Allah’s mercy, may He be glorified, that He placed no restriction on our eating and drinking during the rest of the year as long as what we consume is (i) Halaal, (ii) Tayyib (nutritious and clean), and (iii) not to be extravagant. We can eat or drink at any time, choosing from a wide variety of cuisines and delicacies: meats, dairy products, spices, herbs, leafy greens, fibers, staple grains, or frutis and vegetables, in whatever combination we like, because indeed the list of Halaal food is endless while the Haraam is only a restricted few.

The fact that Allah has made fasting obligatory is also a mercy from Him. Man’s nature is such that he takes for granted all good things that are easy to access and abundant in supply. He demeans their importance, and many a time, misuses them for his selfish needs.

Fasting from dawn to dusk with a conscious effort to abstain from sins of the tongue, ear, hands, eyes, or heart re-charges our faith and piety every year. Standing in prayers late at night while repenting our sins makes us more conscious of Allah throughout this month.

Think about it this way: Had this fasting not been obligatory, how many of us would have voluntarily fasted 30 days without any break? How many of us would have voluntarily listened to the Qur’an in prayer at night? How many of us would have willingly given a fixed portion of our wealth in charity to the needy? An honest answer shows us where we really stand as weak humans devoid of discipline and self-control. So definitely the obligation of fasting in Ramadan is a great mercy incurred upon us.

Muslims’ attitudes during Ramadan can really be divided into three types:

Only hunger
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) mentioned this type of a person who leaves his eating, drinking and conjugal relations with his spouse, but does not give up indulging in sins like lying and backbiting. For example, you will see such a Muslim greet Ramadan with an attitude of dread, instead of excitement. They look forward to Eid with desperation as Ramadan goes on. You will notice them deliberately missing Taraweeh because “it is not Fard!,” lighting a cigarette as soon as the Maghrib adhan goes off, then missing the Salah in the Masjid as they stuff themselves to the hilt with food. Ramadan, to them, is a burden they cannot wait to offload from their backs. “Many a person who fasts, gets nothing from his fasting except hunger and thirst.” (Ibn Majah, Ahmad)

For more read

Fasting in Ramadan provides a month of health benefits By Dr. Ashraf Ali

Muslims all over the world fast during the month of Ramadan just because it was ordained to them by Allah and not for any other purpose. However, this month-long fasting period has spiritual, religious, social, physical and economical benefits.

The most important issue is that fasting in Islam is not absolute fasting (i.e. fasting all day), which harms the body immensely. Instead, fasts last during the day and one is free to eat and drink at night. In other words, there is a mere re-scheduling of meals so that breakfast is advanced to Suhoor (just before dawn), lunch is skipped, and the fast is broken at sunset. Therefore, abstention from eating and drinking is only for about 12 to 14 hours in most parts of the Muslim world. This abstention brings a wealth of health benefits to the human body.

Rest and Rejuvenation

The entire digestive tract from the mouth down the stomach, liver,pancreases and intestines is at rest during the fast. Any organ which is rested this way has time to repair and renew itself for sustained work with renewed vigor.


The food we consume gives us life-sustaining nutrition as well as toxic by-products which are excreted in urine, stool and sweat. The detoxification process is undertaken by the liver which has ample time to catch up with its pending work in this 12–14 hours of fasting.

Prevention of cell choking

Each cell in the body is a chemical factory. By the constant supply of digested products, the cell gets ‘choked’, and fasting gives it ample time to clear pending work and escape from this ‘choking’.

Weight loss

Fasting leads to modest weight loss which results in a host of benefits like improvement in blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, osteoarthritis, obstructive sleep apnola, atherosclerosis, heart diseases, lung diseases, obesity, digestive disorders, fatty liver, infertility, hypertrighlyceridermia and prevention of heart attacks and strokes.

However, these benefits only come to those who adhere to their fasts the way it has been laid out in the holy Qu’ran and Ahadith and not to those who fast all day and feast all night, as fasting in Ramadan has widely become these days. Islam’s prescription of month-long fasting - if done correctly - can act as an insurance against the obesity pandemic threatening society of late.

Tuning and Toning

During fasting, every day the glycogen storage in the liver gets depleted during the day and replenished in the night. Similarly, the dormant fat in the body cells gets renewed. This dormant fat is committed into active participation of energy generation.

Mental acuity and stamina

Fasting also improves mental acuity as well as increasing the physical and mental stamina of the fasting person. The more athletes practice, the more stamina they acquire. Fasting works the same way; making the body get used to working without the instant gratification provided by food and drink.

Doctor’s advice

Kindly break your fast with some fruit or fruit juice for instant energy, drink water and take a small, bland and easily digestible meal like porridge. Take your usual night meal, and do not make your Suhoor too heavy or too light. Make sure to drink water at regular intervals. –

Can you count on face masks to defend against the A(H1N1)?

While the sales of face masks and respirators have surged worldwide, their effectiveness in protecting the wearer against an airborne virus, such as A (H1N1) is limited.

This year the Kingdom’s Ministry of Health is recommending the use of surgical masks in crowds to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus. Moreover, it has revised its national plan for communicable diseases, under which the health minister has said that pilgrims will be required to wear face masks in order to reduce the risk of flu transmission. Moreover, certain district municipalities, apart from stepping up food safety, have placed a condition on barbers to use disposable gloves and wear a face mask.

The question, however, is what constitutes a ‘mask’ and how helpful they are in protecting against the virus. Dr. Essam Mousa, an internal medicine consultant in a hospital in Jeddah, has recommended “any kind of three-layered masks” for protection against the infection.

However, Dr. V. P. M. Mustafa, the medical director of a local polyclinic in Jeddah, said the effectiveness of masks in protecting against the infection is not ‘100 percent guaranteed’. “Because the mask does not stick to the skin, there is a gap between the mask and the skin, through which the virus can enter,” he said. The virus can still make its way through your fingers touching your nose or mouth, which may have earlier touched infected hard surfaces like door handles, food counters and supermarket trolleys.

While not recommending the general public to wear masks, the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) says the effectiveness of respirators and facemasks in preventing the transmission of A(H1N1) or seasonal influenza in various settings is not reliably known. The CDC also says that the use of a facemask or respirator (e.g. N95) is more likely to be of benefit if used as early as possible when exposed to an ill person and when the facemask or respirator is used consistently. For more read here.

What happens when you experience a personal swine flu scare?

One of the most heart- wrenching experiences parents can go through is to see their children sick or in pain. It started with my daughter running a mild fever that we did not take too seriously. Right away I made Aya, our seven-year old-daughter get comfortable in bed with lots of rest and quiet time. We gave her the usual remedies: fever medication, fluids, chicken broth, and vegetable soups.

At around two A.M. the next morning, when the whole house was asleep, I was awakened by the sound of Aya vomiting. When we rushed to her side to hold her and clean her up I noticed that her body was extremely hot. I immediately gave her fever medication but she vomited that too. My husband bought suppositories from the nearest pharmacy to give her and we rubbed her forehead and limbs with cold, wet towels.

The next day Aya kept vomiting and I was afraid she would get dehydrated so I took her to the hospital. The doctor advised that I continue giving her Tylenol suppositories and additional suppositories to stop the vomiting and to run a stool analysis to detect any intestinal bacteria or parasites. At home we continued with the prescribed treatments but she was just getting worse. She was exhausted and her fever persisted even after we had given her two suppositories to bring it down.

I took her back to the same hospital the following day with her lab results. The doctor said her stool analysis test was completely fine and they could not detect any intestinal infection. When he checked her and found that she had nasal congestion and a sore throat he told me to go the main lab and get an A (H1N1) - or swine flu - test done.

When I heard that my heart skipped a beat. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind as I started blaming myself and questioning where I took my children. I let them go to the beach and play and swim, I took them to a pet store. Could she have caught something from there? The doctor told me not to worry and to take the test to be on the safe side. For more read here.