With Ramadan 2021 just around the corner, Muslims worldwide are bracing themselves to take full advantage of the blessings and mercy bestowed upon the holy month by the Almighty Creator.

Here are some of the fundamentals of Ramadan fasting 2021, rules, times, benefits, tips, and more.

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When is Ramadan?

In 2021, Ramadan starts around 13 April in most Islamic countries including the UAE. A recent update made by an astronomy center in Abu Dhabi has concluded that the month of Sha’ban has begun on Monday, March 15.

This means that Ramadan 2021 will begin either on Tuesday, April 13 or on Wednesday, April 14, 2021, depending on the length of the month of Sha’ban.

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Why do Muslims fast on Ramadan?

Fasting in Ramadan is among the Five Pillars of Islam; the most important acts of worship that a Muslim must observe. These five pillars are:

  • The declaration of faith (Shahada)
  • The 5 daily prayers (Salah)
  • Fasting
  • The compulsory alms to the poor (Zakat)
  • The pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj)

Ramadan fasting allows Muslims to be afforded a divine pardon in which they may be granted absolution and reprieve for all their past transgressions. This enables them to return to a state of purity and starting their journey anew.

To acquire the blessings of Ramadan they must first prove themselves worthy by completing (or at least attempting to complete) the Ramadan fast. Muslims believe that by performing this month-long fast their submission to God may reach its zenith as their minds and bodies are cleansed of impurities. 

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What are the rules of Ramadan fasting?

Ramadan fasting is performed for the sake of Allah and involves believers refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in husband-wife intimacy from just before sunrise to moments following the setting of the sun. 

Apart from the ‘physical’ aspect, Ramadan fasting also requires Muslims to be more engaged in spiritual contemplations and attempt to stay away from sin even more than usual. One should not speak, see, hear or do evil, as well as recognizing that a believer is solely dependent on Allah alone.

Finally, the month of Ramadan also emphasizes the social aspect. It is believed that the state of hunger and thirst experienced by Muslims will compel them to further motivate Muslims in helping others that are less fortunate and in need of charity.

Although Ramadan fasting is deemed compulsory, there are those who are exempt from this obligation. Travelers, children, the elderly, the sick and pregnant women as well as breastfeeding and menstruating women are not required to perform the fast.

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What are the benefits of Ramadan fasting?

Experts have also found that restricting food intake during the day can help prevent health problems such as high cholesterol, heart disease and obesity, as well as improve mental health and wellbeing.

By not consuming any food, our body is able to concentrate on removing toxins, as we give the digestive system a rest.

Nutritionist Claire Mahy told Al Jazeera: “Fasting allows the gut to cleanse and strengthens its lining. It can also stimulate a process called autophagy, which is where cells self-cleanse and remove damaged and dangerous particles.”

Scientists have also been studying the link between diet, gut health and mental wellbeing and, as Mosley explained, fasting can lead to the release of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) in the brain.

Many people who have embraced fasting have also found that, done properly, it has helped them lose fat and gain lean muscle mass. 

Science has indeed verified that there are health benefits associated with the practice of fasting ranging from weight loss to improved brain functions. Here are some of the proven positive effects of fasting.

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Detoxifying:

Abstaining from all matter of solids and surviving on liquids for a few days is a great way to cleanse the human body and detoxify; improving the function of organs whilst promoting a cleansed digestive system – improving blood circulation and getting rid of any harmful toxins in the body.

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Appetite Suppressant:

Do you ever get that feeling of not being able to tell when you’re full? Or eating out of pure boredom? Fasting can help solve those problems. By structuring your day around everything apart from eating, your body eventually gets accustomed to not feeling hungry all the time. During the Holy month of Ramadan, many Muslims who are partaking in the obligatory fasts will experience many cravings during the fasting day, only to find that they are not able to consume much upon opening their fast. This is due to the fact that the less you put into your stomach over a length of time, the more the stomach shrinks – leading you to feel full after just a small amount of food.

As our bodies get accustomed to how often we eat, a few days of intermittent fasting can drastically decrease our appetite in the long run. Upon breaking the fast, the human body cannot consume a large amount comfortably as the stomach shrinks – leading you to feel satisfied after a smaller meal than usual. This process also increases the production of the thyroid hormone in the body, boosting your metabolism in the process.

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Metabolism:

One of the more obvious results of fasting is alleviating obesity; fasting prompts the liver’s enzymes to break down cholesterol and fats to convert them into bile acid, which, in turn, converts to heat – ultimately stimulating faster metabolism. Naturally, fasting also decreases the appetite which reduces the hunger hormone levels in the body. You may just find your portion sizes being significantly smaller following a period of fasting.

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Weight Loss:

The term fasting means to refrain from food or drink or even both at the same time. When the human body is undergoing the starvation process, the body turns to fat in order to utilise and burn any stored energy first.

If done correctly, fasting can do wonders for weight loss – particularly for loss of fatty tissues in the body, leading to better physical structure overall. Incorporating intermittent fasting into a regular resistance training regime will promote greater fat loss with quicker results.

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Immune System:

Partaking in fasting promotes healing in the human body as it applies core focus to its immune system and metabolism as opposed to focusing on digestion, further enhancing muscle growth in the process.

The immune system is largely comprised of white blood cells and fasting encourages your body to recycle any old white blood cells which results in a healthier, more robust immune system. Your body regenerates stem cells that consist of red and white blood cells along with your platelets once your body consumes food again.

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Blood Pressure:

A decrease in the body’s salt intake and loss of salt through urine lowers the body’s blood pressure.

Training:

HGH, also known as Human Growth Hormone, is organically produced by the human body and is known to build muscle mass which effectively burns fat. Although it remains active in your bloodstream for merely a few minutes, it can go a long way towards increasing lean muscle strength which could be incredibly beneficial for training.

Many athletic professionals tend to utilise the fasting method in the lead up to big games as it is key for burning fat whilst targeting and optimising muscle growth.

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Improved Cardiovascular Function:

Fasting can lead to a healthier heart, lowering cholesterol and promoting improved muscle performance along with enhanced blood vessel growth.

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Mental Health

Fasting also goes a significantly long way towards balancing the mind and reducing mental stress. Fasting is also known to strengthen the mind, sharpen focus and provide mental clarity – this is primarily due to a reduction in calorie, sugar and salt intake.

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Blood Sugar

During the fasting process, glucose levels are stabilised which can lead to the prevention of type 2 diabetes as a result.

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Radiant Complexion /Anti-ageing

It is said that fasting could potentially slow down the aging process, keeping you younger and fitter for longer and it could also potentially increase lifespan. Fasting leads to the production of restored tissues and cells within the human body, degrading unnecessary cells in the process. This enables you to produce collagen, leading to healthier and more radiant skin.

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Healthier Brain and Cognitive Function

During the fasting process, blood in the human body is filled with more endorphins, which in turn, gives you a feeling of well-being and great mental health. The overall effects of fasting has a similar impact on the brain as physical exercise would.

As fasting forms one of the five key pillars of Islam, fasting during the month of Ramadan is obligatory upon all able Muslims.

However, should you wish to incorporate any other types of fasting at any other time of the year, it is important to remember to plan your fasting structure well. Be realistic about what you wish to achieve and always ensure that you are in the right mental and physical mind set to be able to reap the full benefits of fasting. Always ensure you get adequate sleep and ensure your stress levels are low.

Remember, it is forbidden to fast on the day of Eid-ul-Fitr which is one of the two vital celebrations in Islam and follows the Holy month of Ramadan.

  • Improves blood sugar control by reducing insulin resistance
  • Improves health by fighting inflammation
  • May elevate heart health by improving blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol levels
  • May improve brain function and prevent neurodegenerative disorders
  • Aids weight loss by limiting calorie intake and boosting metabolism
  • Increases growth hormone secretion, which is vital for growth, metabolism, weight loss and muscle strength
  • May delay aging and extend longevity
  • May aid in cancer prevention and increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy

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Ramadan fasting tips

Although fasting can be beneficial, do try to avoid some of the pitfalls associated with Ramadan fasting. 

For example, some will opt to skip the pre-dawn meal (suhoor) for whatever reason, which is unwise as it could potentially be detrimental to their health. Skipping suhoor means denying the body’s needs for nutrition and fluid; you will more than likely experience dehydration, sluggishness, lack of concentration, which may ultimately lead to you failing your fast.

Suhoor is arguably the most important element of a successful day’s fast since a well-balanced meal will provide you with the necessary energy to maintain your fitness level throughout the day. 

Ensure your suhoor meal is rich in complex carbs, vegetables and fruits, protein and above all, water.

Make sure to drink a good amount of water to keep yourself hydrated and avoid excessive thirst throughout the day. Avoid sugary water the likes of bottled juices and soft drinks because not only are they unhealthy, they also won’t help you stave off thirst for long.  

Additionally, it’s generally a good idea to minimize physical activities and avoid exerting yourself physically during a hot day.

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