Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem
We all know that fasting is a big part of worship in Islam, and we can listen to scholars of Islam as well as health experts tell us all day long about the benefits of fasting, but today I wanted to tell you about how fasting has actually impacted my life, and the changes I have seen happen since I began fasting.
A little bit of background on my fasting story: Basically, when I first converted I was terrified of my first Ramadan. So about six months in advance, I began doing voluntary fasting in order to prepare my body a little bit for a whole month of no food, no water, all day long (this is one of the benefits in and of itself! Your body gets used to it and then you don’t feel quite so exhausted and grumpy and can have more focus on prayer and other worship when Ramadan comes around!).
I knew there were various days during the weeks/months that it was sunnah to fast, but I began simple with only Thursdays. I started about six months before Ramadan, around November. It was a great way to ease into fasting; short days to begin with in the winter, and then as I built up my resistance, the days began to get longer. Eventually I also added in Mondays.
I’m not going to lie, the first few fasts were awful. It was only around a ten or so hour fasting day, but I felt exhausted, angry, and like I would never be full again (dramatic much?).
But after I broke through the proverbial wall, I began to realise that when I was fasting, I actually felt really great. Firstly, I had hugely increased concentration. I used to get most of the week’s worth of homework and studying done on Thursdays, because I concentrated so well while fasting. Perhaps part of that was the fact that my brain wants to do anything but think of how hungry I am, but hey, whatever works.
My body itself also feels great when fasting. When I fast, I tend to drink lots more water during the nights preceding and following my fast, so I am actually much better hydrated than I usually would be. I also tend to be more careful of what I am putting in my body at fast-breaking time—after fasting I usually opt for salads and soups instead of anything heavy or oily, which has obvious health benefits.
Fasting has also become a great way to detox. Especially when I am here in Algeria where it is the cultural norm to drink lots of fizzy drinks, eat lots of sugar, and have bread with every meal, whenever I get the chance I feel like I am hitting the reset button on my body. All of the harsh chemicals and synthetic colours and flavours have time to be flushed out of my body, and I can start new when I break my fast with a fresh salad.
Spiritually speaking, fasting allows me to get hyper-focused on worship for the day. This is a blessing in and of itself, and I find that on days when I fast I find far fewer excuses to be lazy about praying sunnah prayers, and I feel bad if I am sitting at home and I do not pray on time when I hear the call to prayer.
Lastly, I am a much nicer person when I am fasting. For many this is the exact opposite, but I have found that I am actually super conscious of how I am treating people while I fast. As you may have figured if you have been reading my writing for any length of time, I can be kind of a grump. And just ask my husband what happens if I miss lunch on a normal day.
But when I am fasting, every time I begin to get angry about anything, I am able to take a step back and ask myself, “is this something that I am genuinely upset about, or is my stomach talking for me right now?” I look back on various times I have been fasting and am honestly amazed by my own patience with people that I normally would have not given two seconds to, sometimes to the point where I wonder if it was really me talking to that person.
Do any of you do voluntary fasts? If so, what benefits have you noticed for yourself? If not, try it and let me know how it goes!
Note: For more on Islamic health and fitness for sisters, go check out Chelsea at Wellness Muslimah! I have just recently started following her site, and it is super interesting and informative!