- Published on Monday, 06 August 2012 22:40
- Written by Dr. Walid Fitaihi
What many Muslims are unaware of about the reality of Ramadan, its true purpose, and its long lasting effects on our lives is that the discipline and fine tuning of our conduct that fasting during Ramadan teaches us should be practiced all year round.
Ramadan is a month of spiritual training and intensified work in self-improvement that empowers the believer to notably change and to leave the holy month a better person. Change can only take place when we allow the spirituality of Ramadan to enter our hearts and fill it with piety, fear of Allah but also love of Him, tenderness, and the sincere desire to perform acts of worship.
With piety at the cornerstone of a believer’s mind and heart, he/she will strive to do that which pleases Allah and to avoid that which angers Him. A high level of energy, enthusiasm, and a positive attitude are all excellent and powerful aids to change.
It is by the mercy and grace of Allah that He makes it much easier on Muslims to gain rewards during the 30 days of the holy month of Ramadan.
The gates of Heaven are opened, the gates of Hellfire are closed, the rewards for good deeds are multiplied ten-fold, and forgiveness for past sins is granted. Simple acts of kindness are highly rewarded during this special month. Anyone who tastes the exceptionally satisfying sensation of dutifully and devotedly worshiping Allah will enjoy this feeling so much that the believer will always want to remain on this same level of obedience, far after the departure of the holy month. That is how Ramadan is such a strong impetus for change.
Fasting helps the believer get rid of bad habits, negative personality traits, and undesirable conduct which the Muslim may be unable to overcome in any other month of the year. One negative trait that fasting is very helpful in treating is anger and constantly having a bad temper. I think this trait is an emotional disease of the heart. As evidence to the gravity of this problem, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) repeatedly warned his companions against being quick to anger, especially during the month of fasting.
Having a hot and fuming temper is condemned in Islam all year round but more so during Ramadan. Anger has a number of unwanted physiological effects on the body that can negatively impact the health of the fasting person. Modern medicine reveals the wisdom behind the Prophet’s advice.
When you are angry your body secretes ten times more adrenaline than when you are calm. Why is an increase in adrenaline so harmful on the fasting body? First of all, adrenaline stimulates an increase in the burning up of glycogen stored in the liver. Adrenaline causes the fight or flight response and it burns lots of the body’s energy resources to do so.
Ideally, the fasting person should conserve the glycogen stores because the body (in the absence of food intake) relies on this glycogen to convert it into glucose which supplies the body with the energy it needs to fuel the basic bodily functions.
Repeatedly quarreling, yelling, losing your temper, and letting your anger run uninhibited will expend energy and waste your body’s glycogen stores. By the end of the fast, you will feel physically and emotionally strained, tired, and worn out.
Secondly, adrenaline produces a diuretic effect on your body; meaning it increases urine output which results in a loss of fluids from the body. A surge of adrenaline in the body can leave the fasting person feeling tired, thirsty, and exhausted. In addition, getting angry and over-reacting during Ramadan takes away from the rewards of the fasting Muslim.
Fasting can be used as a disciplinary method to train the believer to control his/her anger. By the time the month of Ramadan comes to an end, the believer is better able to dampen his anger and is stronger at controlling his temper. There is never any favorable outcome to raging over worldly matters or else the Prophet would not have so firmly admonished against it.
Abu Hurayrah relates that a man said to the Prophet: “Counsel me.” The Prophet said: “Do not get angry.” The man repeated his request many times, but the Prophet kept saying: “Do not get angry.”
Each person can benefit much from reflecting upon the personal growth that takes place during Ramadan. If fasting the entire month had no positive influence on the believer’s conduct, he should ask himself, “Why did Ramadan not change me?” “Did I miss out on the benefits of Ramadan?”
Let us all keep in mind that the purpose of these remaining days is to morally guide us, spiritually lift us, and shape our conduct for the whole year to come. We should be cautious in order to avoid falling into the group that the Prophet Muhammad described in the following Hadith, “Many are the fasters whose fasting does not bring them anything except hunger and thirst.”