by Fatin Khairallah

The blessed month of Ramadan is a time for inner reflection, self-discipline and self-improvement. If put into proper practice, these self-checks lead to purification of the inner-self. The fasting performed in Ramadan is one of the most successful ways to formulate good habits. When conducted for the worship of God, fasting gives one control over personal desires and drives. Based on research conducted by philosophers and psychologists, and as described in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens”, it takes two to four weeks to develop a habit or to change one. This is exactly what happens in Ramadan, even though one may not realize it. One’s inner-self gives birth to good habits and there is an overall self-improvement. This includes a heightened sense of patience, generosity, helping others, utilizing time more effectively and developing healthy eating habits. The most significant change of all is that, through practicing self-restraint in Ramadan, Muslims become spiritually closer to The Creator, Almighty God.

Throughout Ramadan, the practice of healthy habits allows one to grow both spiritually and behaviorally. There are numerous benefits to fasting, even documented and highly encouraged by professionals. First of all, fasting raises one’s self esteem, because it reminds Muslims of their purpose in life – to worship God. This boost in one’s confidence purifies the individual from any self-centered behavior, and leads to an overall contentment in life.

There are also medical benefits to fasting. In a study done by the Egyptian Institute for Qur’an and Science, doctors recommended fasting due to its benefits in giving the digestive system a rest. For example, it is recognized that fasting is one of the best treatments for acidity in the stomach as well as inflammation of the large intestines. In addition, fasting can strengthen the skin and bones, reduce the risk of gall bladder stones, improve heart function and blood circulation. It can also help with weight loss, making the body lighter on the heart and the bones, specifically the back, legs and feet.

Fasting can enhance one’s mental health by aiding in the alleviation of depression and stress. The senses, such as taste, hearing, touching, and smelling, as well as mind functions, such as memory, significantly improve. There is also an association between fasting and improved fertility in females. An individual becomes less prone to acquiring illnesses such as anemia and even common colds, in a study done by world scientist Eaton Sinclair.

However, fasting has not been prescribed by God simply for dietary reasons. Rather, fasting is an act of worship to God in order to teach mankind self-restraint. In addition to restraining from food and drink, the individual must work on being more patient and forgiving. Muslims are required to refrain from useless talk, be kinder and more generous to others, and utilize and construct time wisely. Since each minute, in essence, is a form of worship to God, the fasting person becomes more aware of their words and actions. Fasting really places the world in perspective and allows one to understand and value his or her existence.

Many good habits are clearly formed in the month of Ramadan. During this time, a person should easily be able to evaluate and contemplate on the positive changes in his or her lifestyle. The fast provides a perfect combination of a heightened sense of energy to worship God and more time away from eating to ponder on how to better worship God. If trained well, the self-improvements that occur during Ramadan should continue throughout the year. The self-checks will continue and sudden change will take place. The individual will transform and develop into a happier, more active worshipper of his Lord.