To Fast or not to Fast
by Imam Zaid
Emel Magazine Issue 59 August 2009
“Ramadan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgment (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if anyone is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful.”
Qur’an, Al-Baqara, 2:185
Though fasting is often not an easy task and takes mental will power and physical endurance, Islam stresses the importance of keeping the body and mind from harm. Fasting is neither a responsibility nor a right for those who are too ill to tolerate it. Hence, it is very important to seek medical advice if you suffer from a chronic disorder such as diabetes or hypertension. Pregnant women and nursing mothers are exempt from fasting too.
Individuals with diabetes who are able to keep their blood glucose levels stable through diet control are better suited to fasting than those who require medication or insulin injections, though most diabetics can fast with the right care. But, children with type I insulin dependent diabetes should avoid fasting.
Your doctor will determine if you can fast by checking your overall health including:
• Any uncontrolled high blood pressure or angina
• Current infections
• A history of uncontrolled diabetes or diabetic ketoacidosis
• Whether you require insulin or medications to control your diabetes
• Whether you have kidney stones, emphysema or other disorders
For most diabetic Muslims, fasting is safe and can be beneficial, particularly if they have type II adult onset diabetes or are obese diabetics. However, a careful diet must be followed and glucose levels must be monitored cautiously. Long term complications, dehydration, infections, hypoglycemia (low glucose levels) and coma are real harms that can occur if diabetes is not carefully monitored.
If you are on prescription medication for high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, angina, high cholesterol and other cardiovascular disorders, it is very important to consult your doctor about changing your medication schedule. Do not reduce your dosage or stop medication on your own; this can have serious effects such as stroke and heart disease.
“If fasting will cause harm to a person afflicted with a dietary disease such as diabetes, they are not required to fast. Instead, they should provide food for a needy person for every fast they miss. The amount of food is a “Mudd” or approximately 600 grams of the dominant staple food of that land, i.e. rice, wheat, potatoes, etc. They are excused from fasting for as long as the relevant affliction endures.” Imam Zaid Shakir
Benefits of Fasting
Often recognised as the missing link in western conventional medicine and nutrition, fasting results in fascinating bodily processes, by which the body sheds toxins, heals, repairs and replenishes its energy supplies. Fasting has been shown to improve allergies, anxiety, depression, colds, headaches, muscle aches, skin irritations and other illnesses. Medical studies show that fasting and curbing calorie intake even contribute to a longer lifespan.