Ramadan Fasting: Overindulgence for the sake of Ministry and Self-Discipline
As I get out of bed around noon, wondering how many more hours I have to go without coffee, I blindly grab my phone. Part of my morning routine, Ramadan or otherwise, is scrolling through Instagram to check out everything I’ve missed. During the holy month, an extra step is added: calculate how long I have left to go until nightfall.
Ramadan, the ninth month in the Islamic lunar calendar, requires Muslims to fast from food, drink, and any activity that could be considered sinful or distracting from their spiritual duties. However, with the dawn of the 21st century, has the rhetoric shifted away from its metaphysical benefits to a greater emphasis on the physical and social benefits to be gained from the practice?
In Islam, body, mind and soul are all interconnected. The basis of the practice is to reflect on the benefits to the mind and soul of abstaining from food, drink and distraction.
Abstinence fosters self-discipline and the ultimate goal is spiritual connection and inner growth. However, in much of the MENA region, Ramadan is synonymous with sleeping in most of the day; overindulging during iftar; and omit moments of self-reflection for screen time. During the holy month, a 23 percent spike in television viewership is recorded in the region and slot prices for advertising are also rising, according to Statista.
Ramadan is an occasion for Muslims to model the habits and behavior that contribute to their spiritual – and by proxy – evolution.
Exercising Self-Control Through Restraint
As for abstinence from food and drink, variations of the practice have taken hold around the world over the past decades, with iterations such as dry fasting and intermittent fasting being praised for their physical and mental health benefits.
Fasting has been proposed as a driver to increase what the American Social Psychologist, Roy.F Baumeister, calls the greatest human strength: power. That’s because abstinence requires a certain amount of mental strength, restraint and discipline. The American Psychological Association defines willpower as the ability to delay immediate gratification over a long-term reward.
Patience and perseverance, which are precursors to achieving self-control, are some of the skills that help promote fasting, according to Islam: Religion, Practice, Culture, & World Order published by the International Institute of Islamic Thought in 2012.
Journalist and co-author of the New York Times, Will Power, explains that that power is like a muscle, and that those who exercise it regularly have better control, and not diminish it. During the holy month, which comes around once a year, the fasting is from dawn to night, after which Muslims can indulge (not be gluttonous).
A Cure for Addiction?
Difficulty controlling impulses and urges is associated with obsessive consumption of certain products, which eventually leads to addiction. Ramadan is an opportunity to find these individual addictions – cutting them out during the day – with the intention of curbing them or quitting them completely in the long term.
Social media is one of the addictions that have been on the rise since the advent of the internet. Today, young people consume too much of social media. The way content is consumed on social media platforms is showing addictive behaviour, with the consequences being reflected in the increased anxiety that has gripped the younger generations.
But what effect do these distractions have on a person? The more the brain’s prefrontal cortex – the one used for focus – is weakened, the more the parietal lobe is used to “take in distractions,” according to an article published by Boston’s Suffolk University in 2021.
The holy month suggests a break from these distractions, whatever they may be, and Muslims are encouraged to spend their time in meditation, prayer, strengthening their relationship with God, fostering connection with loved ones and participating in acts of nurturing .
Founder and Dean of Cambridge Muslim College and Theologian, Sheikh Abdel Hakim Murad says in one of his sermons referring to Ramadan that “many of those who get nothing from their fast crossing except hunger and thirst,” allowing the a deeper meaning to be derived from it. from experience.
Increase in Overspending
Overconsumption is the culprit behind some of the world’s ills. Capitalism is a symptom of the epidemic, overspending contributes to climate change and unethical labor practices, among other issues.
During Ramadan, several countries in the Arab world registered their highest percentage of food waste, a byproduct of overconsumption, during the month. Although the holy month preaches abstinence, individuals and organizations are hyper-focused on food.
In 2020, chicken consumption in Egypt increased by 66.5 percent, as did food bills in Ramadan. A survey of household food waste in Egypt, published in 2015, found that waste increased by 75.7 percent during the holy month.
Similarly in the United Arab Emirates, the municipality of Dubai recorded a 55 percent increase in food waste during Ramadan in 2019, as hotels and restaurants set up every year for the entire month with elegant buffets and opulent banquets.
The Islamic scholar, Ismail Ibn Musa Menk, known as Mufti Menk, talks about the habit of overspending which is related to breaking fast. Quoting the prophet (PBUH), Mufti Menk explains that the best practice for breaking fast should be “one-third solids, one-third liquids, and one-third air.” This is not to say that those who are fasting are forbidden to eat more than that, but that consumption should be done with moderation and caution.
“The philosophy of fasting in Islam reflects the humanism of Islam”; it is a tool for self-mastery that encourages people to reach their highest potential – including empathy and compassion.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Streets of Egypt editorial team. To submit an opinion piece, please send an email [email protected]
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