As Muslims across the UAE prepare to fast during the holy month, could you benefit from following suit this Ramadan?
For many expats, when you see Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset it’s difficult not to ask yourself: Could I do it? How would I cope? What would the experience be like?
Interested to see how fasting could benefit an individual, we speak to non-Muslim members of our community who share their experiences of fasting and the inspiration behind their decision to try it for themselves.
“I’ve been fasting during Ramadan for four years now,” explains teacher Kristina Scanova.
“I used to live in Egypt and I lived with a lovely local family. They would fast during Ramadan and I decided to join them.
“I’ve always had an interest in the culture of the region so I really wanted to experience it.
It came to Ramadan and I gave it a go.
“The whole atmosphere was beautiful and the family were very supportive. We would fast during the day and then we would come together for a meal in the evening. It was a wonderful experience.”
Having a support network around you and interacting with people who are also fasting can help you when trying it for the first time, but it’s not as easy as just deciding to not have any food and drink – you need to plan effectively and understand the pressures being put on your body.
“The first time I tried it I was unsuccessful because it was my first time without drinking for long hours,” adds Kristina.
“I got quite sick after a few days and had to go to a doctor. From the next year on, I knew better and I [was able to] fast completely.
“When you try for the first time, you don’t really know how your body will cope or the little tricks and tips you need to get hydrated throughout the day.”
Remember that fasting during Ramadan isn’t just about abstaining from food and drink; it’s also about eliminating indecent behaviour and language from your vocabulary, embracing a sense of community, spreading good will to others and being grateful for what you have in life.
“The point in fasting is to cleanse yourself; it’s detoxifying, it cleans the body and mind. You challenge yourself, have some self-reflection and make your body and mind healthier through the process,” explains Kristina.
“It’s a great way to show respect for the country you’re living in, to truly experience Islamic culture and enjoy the spirit of the season. I enjoy the challenge and the self-discipline and to show solidarity with everyone else who is fasting.”
Even for those who practice another religion, which is welcomed here in the UAE, some can find value and a sense of belonging by fasting during Ramadan.
Schoolteacher Joanna Budair says: “While I am a Roman Catholic, I do recognise the importance of Ramadan. The holy month is not only a time to rejoice, but it has also helped me further understand the importance of Ramadan in the UAE and to Islam. It helps us to gather an appreciation for what we have in life.
“I decided to try fasting as I am married to a Muslim and Ramadan is of paramount importance in his religion. As well, I want to be a role model for my two young Muslim children who one day, Insha’allah, will fast.
“Ramadan is a special time for our family as we enjoy great iftars together and rejoice at everything that God has given us.”
Five reasons to try fasting
These are just some of the health benefits for you if you decide to fast this Ramadan…
- According to studies by the National Institute on Aging, fasting protects brain cells from routine damage and strengthens your heart by reducing triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Fasting can also help fight diabetes, which is prevalent in the UAE, by enhancing the body’s control over blood sugar levels and sensitivity to insulin. If you do have diabetes, remember to consult your doctor before fasting.
- A study by Thomas Jefferson University in has shown that fasting has a positive effect on metabolism and can reduce the risk of developing cancer in women.
- Studies by the American College of Cardiology in New Orleans have shown that during fasting the body burns more fat and retains muscle. The body produces an excess of ketone bodies in the blood, which converts fat stores to energy through ketosis.
- Self-discipline during Ramadan can also cause you to break bad habits and make healthier choices, helping people to quit smoking and cut down on consumption of sugary drinks and caffeine.