Fasting is practised by the Muslim
population around the world, comprising 20% of the world's population. It is not as harmful as it may initially sound; doctors are now convinced that it gives your digestive system a break, and it's also a good way to stay in shape.
Fasting in the Muslim world is practised from dusk
; typically from 5 am till 5 pm, although variations in time due to different time zones may apply. Performance of fasting is obligatory for people who are able, but the sick and women in menopause
are exempt. Of the 5 pillars of Islam, fasting is the 4th pillar.
In the second year of Hijra
(exodus from Mecca to Medina), fasting was declared obligatory to Muslims, "O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint."Quran 2:183
During a fast Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink anything. This teaches will power and self control, and also allows people of all social levels to feel how the poor and hungry feel.
Fasting is performed in the holy month of Ramadhan
- the 9th month on the lunar calendar
. This is the month the Quran
was revealed to Mohammed
. A fast becomes invalid if any of the listed actions mentioned below are deliberately performed, if a person performs these actions unintentionally or out of absentmindedness, no blame falls on them.
Eating and drinking deliberately invalidates the fast. Smoking tobacco is open to debate, as some strict schools consider it to invalidate the fast and other less strict schools do not. Smoking has no nutritional value, which is why some less strict schools permits it.
Deliberate sexual intercourse during the fast invalidates the fast. Some schools require the freeing of a slave as a means of repentance, and if that is not possible, fasting for 2 months, and if that is not possible, feeding 60 poor persons.
Masturbation that ends with seminal emission invalidates the fast if it is deliberate. Deliberate vomiting invalidates the fast, while unintended vomiting does not. Injecting of vitamins or other nutrients into the bloodstream through needles invalidates the fast according to all schools.
orders Muslims not to have sexual intercourse with spouses during a fast in this passage, "Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments And ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye Used to do secretly among yourselves; But He turned to you And forgave you; So now associate with them, And see what Allah Hath ordained for you, And eat and drink, Until the white thread Of dawn appear to you Distinct from its black thread; Then complete your fast Till the night appears; But do not associate With your wives While ye are in retreat In the mosques. Those are Limits (set by) Allah: Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that They may learn self-restraint. Quran, 2:187
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Allah's Apostle took an oath that he would abstain from his wives, and at that time his leg had been sprained (dislocated). So he stayed in the Mashruba (an attic room) of his for 29 days. Then he came down, and they (the people) said, "O Allah's Apostle! You took an oath to abstain from your wives for one month." He said, "The month is of twenty nine days." (Translation of Sahih Bukhari
, Divorce, Volume 7, Book 63, Number 212)"
The longest fasting period in any religious group is attributed to the coptic
Christian in egypt, who fast for 250 days.
Fasting is not only limited to corporeal
restraints, positive ethical attitudes is also commanded. Narrated Abu Huraira, "The Prophet said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving his food and drink (i.e. Allah will not accept his fasting.)" (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 127)
Fasting diminishes sexual desires according to this hadeeth
, Narrated 'Alqama
, "While I was walking with 'Abdullah he said, "We were in the company of the Prophet and he said, 'He who can afford to marry should marry, because it will help him refrain from looking at other women, and save his private parts from looking at other women, and save his private parts from committing illegal sexual relation; and he who cannot afford to marry is advised to fast, as fasting will diminish his sexual power." (Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 129)"
Fasting is integrated into many world religions including Islam
. Many are skeptical to the positive physiological
effects fasting have on the adherents of the major religions. With significant numbers, alternative healer
s believe fasting can do wonders for the human body.
Physiologically, fasting instigates between 12 to 24 hours at the beginning of the fast. The chemical kickoff of a fast starts when the body begin to tap into carbohydrate
s stores in the body in order to be used as an energy source. Fasting continues when fat
s and carbohydrates in the body are utilized for energy, not protein
stores in muscles. If proteins stores depletion begins, a person is technically starving.
Due to food deprivation, the body turns to its own energy stores by a process called autolysis
. Autolysis is the breaking down of fat stores for the production of energy. The liver is tasked with the conversion of fats into ketone
which consists of metabolic substances called acetoacetic acid
acid.(1) These substances are then distributed to the body via the bloodstream. The less a person eats, the more the body will tap into fats and the more ketone bodies creation occurs, the buildup of ketone is referred to as ketosis.
Detoxification is the key case fasting adherents advocate. Detoxification is a process the body utilizes by eliminating toxins through the lungs
, and liver
. (2) This process is rushed by fasting due to the absence of incoming external energy source and the body utilization of its own energy stores. When fat stores are used for energy during fasting, chemicals are released from fatty acids
into the system which are then secreted through detoxification organs, such as the kidney, colon, liver, etc.
During fasting energy is unfocused towards the digestive system due to lack of utilization and instead energy is focused towards the immune system and metabolic system. Abnormal growth in the body, such as tumor
s, do not have the full support of the body's energy during fasting and as a result are more at risk of autolysis.
The most scientifically proven advantage of fasting is extended life expectancy. The only reliable way to extend lifespan of a mammal is under nutrition without malnutrition.(2) Modern experiments performed on mice support this claim.(3) In the 1930s a study was performed on earthworms with one isolated worm going through a cycle of fasting and feeding. The isolated worm outlasted its relatives by 19 generations.
1) fasting for better health, Sue Reith, http://www.saanendoah.com/ketosis.html, last accessed 9/30/2006
2) WebMD – Detox Diets: Cleansing the Body, Jeanie Lerche Davis, http://www.webmd.com/content/article/11/1671_52826, last accessed 9/30/2006
3) Caloric Restriction and Life Expectancy, Elena Armandola, PhD, http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1480571, last accessed 9/30/2006.