#Article (Archive)

The joy of fasting

Aug 9, 2011, 1:29 PM | Article By: Momodou Sabally - Author, Instant Success: Ten Keys to Personal Achievement

A complete fast is a complete and literal denial of self. It is the truest prayer…genuine fast cleanses the body, mind and soul.

Mahatma Gandhi

For some readers, the title of this essay may be highly paradoxical. Am sure that would be the opinion of the Serere man who (says, the Fula) saw the new moon heralding the beginning of Ramadan and went for a long stick to try and push it back into the clouds. Such are the pains of abstaining from food and drink that even the thought of fasting could evoke feelings of great inconvenience for most people. Yet fasting could be a great source of joy and happiness for the person who approaches it with the right frame of mind and understanding regarding its purpose and techniques.

In a poem that I wrote many years ago, the opening couplet was: do practice self-denial/ life is but a trial. I later learned from Mahatma Gandhi that self-discipline, which happens to be one indispensable key to success in any field, rests on the practice of self-denial. Man must conquer his lesser urges and impulses to be able to live a happy and successful life be it in this world, or in the hereafter. We have just entered one such period of self-denial, the Holy month of Ramadan, which happens to be a great season of fasting, prayer and devotion to all that is good and beautiful in the eyes of Allah.

Though some people may be sad at the advent of this month, it is surely a blessing and a period of great benefaction from Allah. For those moaning and groaning about the pains of hunger and thirst, they should be glad to know that fasting is the boon of mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. “What is perhaps a rare phenomenon with humans is rather second nature to animals, who instinctively avoid food to ease pain, discomfort or disease.”

When Allah said in the Holy Qu’ran “O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you may (learn) self-restraint.” it certainly was not a means to punish the believers but in His all-encompassing wisdom Allah has thus prescribed a great spiritual, physical and psychological cleanser and restorer for His beloved creation, Mankind. All the great religions embrace fasting as a means of bringing out the best and the noblest from our souls, and this universality of fasting is alluded to in the foregoing verse since Allah also tells the Muslims that fasting had been prescribed to other peoples before the coming of prophet Muhammad (S.A.W.S). Allah, being the Great lover of his creation has intended that our lives be good and beautiful, hence the prescription of fasting as one of the tools in making our lives better and nobler.

In terms of the health benefits of fasting, the Islamic Medical Association of Malaysia’s Student Chapter blogged that “during a fast, the body is on a ‘conserve energy’ and ‘healing’ mode…Fasting enables rest for the digestive system, and this saved energy goes into self-healing and repairing operations. Cleansing and detoxification in the intestines, blood and cells heals the body from many ailments. Fasting thus, invigorates the immune system to function at its best and helps promote physical and emotional health, by rejuvenating the body.” And as James Balch, M.D, teaches: “Fasting is an effective and safe method of detoxifying the body…a technique that wise men have used for centuries to heal the sick.” Fasting therefore contains many benefits that could help you live a longer and happier life.”

Fasting is a great tool to heighten your spiritual development. As Saint Augustine explained, it “cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one’s flesh to the spirit, renders the heart contrite and humble, scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, and kindles the true light of chastity.”

Fasting may not be easy, especially with our ingrained habits of three square meals a day, but all good things and results can only be attained by paying the price. That is the law of the universe: “do the thing and you shall have the power” as American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson would say. In the words of another philosopher James Allen: “those who set their feet firmly upon the path of self-conquest, who walk aided by the staff of faith on the highway of self-sacrifice, will assuredly achieve the highest prosperity, and will reap abounding and enduring joy and bliss.” Self-denial today will bring you joy, abundance and prosperity tomorrow. May Allah ease our fasting for us and help us to do it with the noblest intention and the purest execution. Amen.

Ramadan Mubarak; Kullu am, wa antum bil khair (May you be well throughout the year).