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Benefits of Fasting: Why do Muslims fast?
Ramadan: The month of Fasting
The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it...
(Surah Baqarah, ayah 185)
The month of Ramadan, the 9th month of the lunar calendar is the month of fasting for the Muslims around the world. The Holy Quran was completely revealed in the month of Ramadan, thus it's been obligatory for all Muslims who have reached puberty to fast i.e. in act of worship in the month of Ramadan.
Why Muslims fast?
Though Ramadan is the month of fasting, a Muslim can fast any day of the year except for the days of Eid.
So, why DO Muslims fast?
Fasting is one of the 5 obligatory pillars of Islam. But it doesn't end there. Fasting helps a Muslim realize his true self, when the devils are chained as mentioned by the Prophet Muhammad (SAW),
When the month of Ramadan starts, the gates of the heaven are opened and the gates of Hell are closed and the devils are chained.
(Sahih Bukhari, volume 3, book 31, hadith 123)
Thus, it means that devil is not able to urge one to do sin, so when he's not around are you still able to control yourself from committing sin?
Fasting has been prescribed in order for one to realize and experience the empty stomach of a poor person. It is so that Muslims can sympathize, realize and try to help the poor and to be grateful to Allah (God) for being able to eat and drink at leisure.
Fasting also demonstrates one's love for his Lord. Food and drink takes up most of our time in a day, thus by fasting one avoids food and water and spends his time worshiping in love for his Lord to be pleased.
Fasting itself carries many health benefits. So what are they?
Benefits of Fasting
Fasting has many benefits, which creates more than enough reason to fast. It not only helps you earn good deeds but also helps you in many other ways.
So let's find what those 'other ways' are!
1. Fasting Improves Insulin Sensitivity
Fasting has shown to have a positive effect on insulin sensitivity, allowing you to tolerate carbohydrates (sugar) better than if you didn’t fast. A study showed that after periods of fasting, insulin becomes more effective in telling cells to take up glucose from blood. (Lifehack.org)
2. Fasting Speeds Up The Metabolism
Regular fasting slows down your metabolism and causes your blood sugar levels to rise due to the stress fasting places on your body. A metabolic fast provides your body with the nutrients it needs to stimulate your metabolism to push your body into fat-burning mode (Doctorz.com)
3. Fasting Promotes Longevity
In a study published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, they made a connection between fasting and the reduction of immune system defects and diseases by analyzing the survival rate of cancer patients who fasted prior to receiving chemotherapy. The blood chemistries of the “starved” patients showed a jump in the number of circulating bone marrow stem cells (a good effect) and a decrease in the levels of two molecular bad actors that contribute to the development of cellular injury and cancer.
4. Fasting Improves Hunger
Fasting helps to regulate the hormones in your body so that you experience what true hunger is. We know that obese individuals do not receive the correct signals to let them know they are full due excessive eating patterns.
Think of fasting as a reset button: the longer you fast, the more your body can regulate itself to release the correct hormones, so that you can experience what real hunger is. Not to mention, when your hormones are working correctly, you get full quicker. (Lifehack.org)
5. Fasting Prevents Cancer
Fasting may lower your risk of breast cancer or improve your prognosis. Fasting has also been shown to decrease the risk for other types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. In the first study of its kind, researchers analyzed 11 years of data from non-diabetic breast cancer patients, with surprising results. The study looked at daily sleep and dietary habits, serum blood sugar and inflammation markers (hemoglobin A1c and C-reactive protein), and the recurrence of cancer and breast tumors.
Long story short, fasting reduces risk of cancers, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and improves sleep.
6. Fasting Improves Your Brain Function
Fasting has shown to improve brain function, because it boosts the production of a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF.)
BDNF activates brain stem cells to convert into new neurons, and triggers numerous other chemicals that promote neural health. This protein also protects your brain cells from changes associated with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. (Lifehack.org)
7. Fasting Helps Clear The Skin And Prevent Acne
Fasting can help clear the skin, because with the body temporarily freed from digestion, it’s able to focus its regenerative energies on other systems.
Not eating anything for just one day has shown to help the body clean up the toxins and regulate the functioning of other organs of the body like liver, kidneys and other parts.