Fasting is a fundamental worship in Islam that provides a great platform to gain self-control, piety, humbleness, sympathy to poor, sincerity to Allah and success in Hereafter. Fasting enable us to fight evil traits such as passion, lust, greed, arrogance and jealousy.
The month of Ramadan is specifically mentioned in authentic Islamic traditions to be the Month of Allah in which fasting is obliged to all Muslims and this is the month in which Holy Book, Qur’an was revealed.
According to ‘Lantern of the Path’ written by Imam Ja’far Sadqi (A): “The Holy Prophet (S) said, ‘Fasting is a protection from the calamities of this world, and a veil from punishment of the next.’ When you fast, intend thereby to restrain yourself from fleshly appetites and to cut off those worldly desires arising from the ideas of Satan and his kind. Put yourself in the position of a sick person who desires neither food nor drink; expect recovery at any moment from the sickness of wrong actions. Purify your inner being of every lie, spiritual impurity, heedlessness and darkness, which might cut you off from being sincere for the sake of Allah.
Somebody said to one of the Companions, ‘You are already weak; fasting will weaken you further.’ He said ‘I am preparing that fast for the evil of a long day,’. ‘Patience in obeying Allah is easier than patience in His punishment.’ And the Messenger of Allah once quoted Allah’s words, ‘Fasting is mine, and I do reward it.’
Fasting kills the desire of the self and the appetite of greed, and from it comes purity of the heart, purification of the limbs, cultivation of the inner and the outer being, thankfulness for blessings, charity to the poor, increase of humble supplication, humility, weeping and most of the ways of seeking refuge in Allah; and it is the cause for the breaking of worldly desires, the reducing of evil things, and the redoubling of good deeds. It contains benefits which cannot be counted. It is enough that we mention some of them to the person who understands and is given success in making use of fasting, if Allah wills.”
Imam Ali said in Nahjul Balagha, for everything that you possess there is purification (Zakat), and purity (Zakat) of your-self is fasting. Further, it is written in Nahjul Balagha that fast in the month of Ramadan for it is the shield against chastisement. Allah has protected His believers by means of prayers, and alms-giving, and suffering of the hardships of fasting in the days in which it has been made obligatory, in order to give their limbs peacefulness, to cast fear in their eyes, to make their spirits humble, to give their hearts humility and to remove haughtiness from them.
A brief secret of Fasting
One of the training effects of Fasting on a person is that it discontinues the rule of habit and desires and frees the person from the slavery of sensual desires. The worst rule and most dangerous is the rule of bad habit and the slavery of desires because usually the simple habit of tobacco gives a big loss to the honor of a person and then what to say about other habits?
That person is free who is not a slave to any habit and who with his firm intentions has control over all of them. This type of freedom and spiritual perfection gives strength and necessitates the firm steps, which originate from fasting.
Fasting awakens emotions and sentiments. Wealthy and well to do people, who eat different varieties of food the whole year are unaware of people who are hungry. The person, who fasts, remembers the hunger of the poor and becomes aware of their sufferings and as a result emotions and sentiments are awakened in them, and this reduces the gap between various classes of people and reminds them to fulfill the needs of the poor.
What would be a greater benefit of fasting that the upper class and happy people taste hunger and thirst due to the thinking about the needy, who if remain in their existing state only, will increase the anger of their fire, which will burn down each and everything and destroy all.
Fasting in the Holy month of Ramadan shows equality and unity because in this month the happy and poor people remain away from desires and lead similar life.
Allah loves those who observe fasting and bestows on them a good reward. Observing fasting means abstaining from eating drinking, and some other things. In the month of Ramadan, Muslims observe fasting every day from the morning until the sunset, when they eat again. After the fasting each day, the first meal that we eat in the evening is called Iftar. When observing fasting, we must first of all have intention (niyyah). This means that we decide to observe fasting in obedience to the command of Allah.
Allah has made observing the fasting an obligatory (wajib) act for Muslims so that we remember Allah. We know ourselves better. We become more able to control our desires. We remember the Hereafter. We get ready to do good deeds. We store righteous acts for our future life. We gain experience of hunger and thirst, and so remember the poor, and sympathize with them, and help them. We become healthier. We may move ahead towards our desired goal of perfection
Imam Jafar al-Sadiq (AS) has said: “A person who merely abstains from eating and drinking will not always be counted as one who is observing fast.“ This means that when you observe fasting, your ears, eyes, tongue, etc. must also be observing fasting and must not perform any unlawful actions. Your hands, feet, and all the parts of your body must also be observing fasting and must commit no sin. Only then will your fasting be accepted by the Almighty Allah.
When you are observing fasting, you must behave better than on other days. You must keep your tongue from idle and useless speech. Don’t tell lies. Don’t make fun of anyone. Don’t quarrel and argue. Don’t give way to jealousy. Abstain from speaking ill of others and from fault-finding. Be more kind than usual to people and make their life comfortable
For young men and women who have reached adolescence (baligh), it is obligatory to observe fasting during the month of Ramadan, unless it is medically harmful for them.
Children underage eat a little with their families shortly before the fasting begins, and then don’t eat anything until noon, or until as long as they can. In this way they share in the rewards of the fasting with the rest of their family-members.
People who eat when they are supposed to observe fasting, commit a sin. They must observe the fasting for the number of days they have not observed the fasting without any proper Islamic reason. Further, they must also observe fasting for 60 days or feed 60 poor people for each day on which they broke their fast.
Entertaining a guest for the Iftar is one of the best deeds to perform in the month of Ramadan. The Prophet (SA) has told us: “Whoever invites a person observing fasting for Iftar, his sins will be forgiven and the Almighty Allah would bestow on him goodness and blessings.”
Some of the Prophet’s (SA) Companions used to say: “O Messenger of Allah, we all are not able to do this” and the Prophet (S.A) would reply: “If not, then feed a person observing fasting even half a date, or offer him a glass of water.”
From the social point of view, it induces people to show practical sympathy to the deprived and starving. Further, from the point of view of health and hygiene, its curative and preventive value cannot be denied. It cleans the body system internally and shakes off the unconsumed food which usually takes the form of surplus fat and overweight, and becomes the cause of many diseases and discomforts.
Relation between fast and strengthening of will‑power
We already know that it is obligatory on all adult and sane Muslims., men and women, provided they are not traveling, ill, too old or infirm, to keep fast during the month of Ramadan. In other words, it is to abstain from eating, drinking, coition, plunging head into water, swallowing thick airborne dust and all other acts invalidating fast.
This holding out against passions, enduring hunger and thirst and resisting carnal desire awaken and arouse the dormant and secret inner force, provide an exercise in self‑control and enable man to resist and not to succumb easily to the base desires like the outburst of lust, anger and selfishness.
Man is always subject to being over‑whelmed by a number of misleading desires such as acquiring wealth by unlawful means, indulgence in illicit erotic contacts, licentiousness, succumbing to temptations etc.
There are many desires, passions and temptations which often flare up and give a blow to the dignity and position of man. It is, however, possible that he may increase his power of resistance and self‑control, show perseverance against every evil, not succumb to every temptation and not respond to every call. At the time of the outburst of an unlawful desire, he should exercise self‑restraint, use his common sense, look into the future and keep the final result in view so that he may not sacrifice himself to a transient passion.
To develop this resisting power gradually one must have an occasion to fight against his desires and personal pleasures. Fast provides such an opportunity. It renders the required help in the development of this resistance. The Qur’an describes the creative role of the fast especially in Ramadan in these words:
“O’ you who have Faith! Fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those who have gone before you, so that you may guard yourselves (and remain firm against evils, sins and slips)“. (Qur’an, 2:183).
“(Fast for) a certain number of days. But whoever among you is sick or on a journey, then (he shall fast) the same number of other days, and for those who are hardly to do it, (there is) a redemption by feeding an indigent. But whoever volunteers to do good, it is better for him; and it is better for you that you fast, if you did (only) know.” (Qur’an, 2:184).
“The month of Ramadan that wherein the Qur’an was sent down to be a guidance for mankind, and as clear signs of guidance and a criterion (between right and wrong) . Therefore, whoever of you is present (at his home) during the month, he shall fast therein and whoever is sick or on a journey, he shall then (fast) the same number of other days; Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you; so you should complete the number (of days decreed) , and exalt Allah for His having guided you, and that you glorify Him .” (Qur’an, 2:185).
As referred above, the Qur’an explains the philosophy of this humanizing worship in a short but meaningful sentence, says: “… so that you may guard yourselves (against evil) .”
According to what the Late Kolayny says in his famous book (Al-Kafi, vol. 2, p. 18), piety is rendered into one’s restriction from sin. Most sins originate from wrath and lust. Fasting brings the extravagance of this instinct under control, which, consequently, decreases corruption and increases piety.
Yes, fasting effectively streamlines the process of training the spirit of piety in all dimensions of every field. Due to its great impact in training human body and soul, as mentioned in the verse above, fasting is not appointed only for Muslims but it had been practiced by the former nations, too.
A tradition narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) says:
“The pleasure found in (the phrase: ‘ O’ you who have Faith! ‘ is so that) it has removed the tiredness of this worship and effort.” (Majma’-ul-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 27)
Above verses of Holy Quran also mention that in order to reduce the hardship of fasting, it commands to keep fasting for certain number of days and do not oblige us to fast all the year. Quran also takes this duty of fasting off from sick and from the travelers and advise them to fast when they recover from sickness and return back from their travel.
Quran also excludes the third group, those who are absolutely unable to fast, such as elderly men, elderly women, the constant patients with chronic diseases, where it says:
“… and for those who are hardly able to do it, (there is) a redemption by feeding an indigent. …”
“… But whoever volunteers to do good, it is better for him …”
And finally, at the end of the verse, the fact is restated, which itself is another emphasis on the philosophy of fasting, thus: “… And it is better for you that you fast, if you did (only) know.”
This meaning also refers to the fact that the worship of fasting, as other worships, does not add anything to the Glory and Dignity of Allah but all its merits are for the worshipper. Islamic traditions confirm the same meaning, too
The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) has said: “He who fasts during the fasting month for the sake of Allah, all his sins will be forgiven.” (Tafsir-i-Maraqy, vol. 2, p. 69).
The last verse of this group of verses (2:185) introduces the time of fasting and a part of its ordinances and their philosophies. At first it says that those certain days that you must fast are the month of Ramadan, and:
“The month of Ramadan is that wherein the Qur’an was sent down…” And this Qur’an is the same that is:
“…to be a guidance for mankind, and as clear signs of guidance and a criterion (between right and wrong) . …”
Then again, the command for the passengers and the sick is restated and, as an emphasis, it says:
“…Therefore, whoever of you is present (at his home) during the month, he shall fast therein, and whoever is sick or on a journey, he shall then (fast) the same number of other days; …”
The repetition of the ordinance of the sick and passenger in this verse and the previous one may be for the purpose that some people, think that not to fast is absolutely a disgraceful action, insist on fasting when they are sick or are on a journey, so the Qur’an, by this repetition, makes the Muslims understand that fasting is a divine duty for the safe and sound persons while, in the same manner, not fasting is also a divine command for the sick and passengers (with their proper conditions) so that the offense of it is a sin.
At the end of the verse, it pays attention to the philosophy of the divine legislation of fasting once more, and says: “… Allah desires ease for you, and He does not desire hardship for you: …”
It points to this fact that although fasting is apparently a kind of strictness and limitation, its conclusion is ease and tranquility of man, both spiritually and materially.
This sentence may hint to this matter that the Divine commands are not similar to the commands of tyrants. In the case that the fulfillment of an action is very laborious, Allah enjoins an easier duty to be performed. Therefore, the ordinance of fasting, with all its importance, was exempted for the sick, passengers, and those feeble ones unable to perform it.
Then, it adds: “…So you should complete the number (of days decreed) …”
This means that everyone who is safe should fast one month a year because it is necessary for his health. For this reason, if a person is sick or on a journey during the month of Ramadan, the one must practice of fasting those days until the same number is completed. Even monstrous women, who are excused from establishing prayers, are not exempted from fasting at a later date.
So, in the final sentence of the verse, it says:
“…and exalt Allah for His having guided you and that you glorify Him).”
Yes, we must exalt Allah for the guidance He has endowed upon us, and be thankful to Him for all those blessings He has mercifully given us.
It is noteworthy that the act of thanksgiving is mentioned with the term ‘glorify’, while the matter of exalting Allah is stated conclusively. This difference of statement may be for the reason that the fulfillment of this worship (fasting) is, at any rate, the exaltation of the Essence of Allah, but thanksgiving, which is the same as using the blessings in their proper sites and taking benefit from the effects and practical issues of fasting, has some conditions which will not be fulfilled unless those conditions be obtained, the most important of which are: a perfect sincerity, the recognition of the reality of fasting, and acknowledgement about the philosophy of fasting.
Fasting and Its Educational, Social, and Hygienically Effects
From the point of various effects that fasting may spiritually and materially produce in the unity of man, it has different dimensions that can be discussed. The ethical dimension and the philosophy of fasting are the most important of all.
However, fasting causes man to promote from the animate nature so that he can ascend unto the rank and the world of angels. The famous tradition from Imam Sadiq (a.s) is another hint to the same matter which says: “Fasting is a protector from Fire.” (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 96, p. 256)
Another tradition narrated from Amir-ul-Mu’mineen Ali (A.S.) says that the Prophet (p.b.u.h.) was asked what they would do that Satan be banished, and he (p.b.u.h.) answered:
“Fasting blackens his face; charity breaks his back; the love in (the path of) Allah, and persistence in righteous deeds put an end to him, and seeking (Allah’s) forgiveness cuts his aorta (main artery).” (Ibid, p. 255)
When Ali-ibn-Abi-Talib (A.S.), stating the philosophy of worship, speaks about fasting and he, says: “(Allah has laid down) fasting as a trial of the people in their sincerity…” (Nahjul-Balaqah, Saying No. 252).
In another tradition, the holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) has said: “Verily, there is a door for (entering) Heaven by the name of ‘ Al-Rayyan ‘ (quenched of thirst) none enters therein but fasting ones.” (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 96, p. 252).
Explaining this tradition, the Late Saduq cites in his book ‘ Ma’any-ul-Akhbar ‘ the reason that this name has been taken for that door of Heaven is that much of the toil of a fasting person is because of his thirst. So when the fasting ones enter this door, they will be so saturated that they will never become thirsty thereafter.
The Social Effect of Fasting
Every intelligent person realizes that fasting works as a lesson of equality among the members of a society. By practicing this religious command, the rich realize perceptibly both the state of the hungry and the deprived of their society, and, with saving in their daily meals, can help them well. It is possible, of course, that by explaining the status of the hungry and the deprived to the rich, it will make them understand that status, but if this condition becomes perceptible and objective, it will react more effectively. Fasting gives this great social subject a perceptible form to those who observe it.
It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (a.s.) in a well-known tradition that: Hisham-ibn-Hakam asked him about the reason for the divine legislation of this ordinance when he (a.s.) said: “Allah has enjoined fasting in order to settle equivalence between the rich and the poor, and this is for the sake that the rich feel the taste of hunger and, consequently, be merciful toward the poor (by giving them their rights) . And, since the things are usually available for the rich, then Allah, the Exalted, is pleased when equivalence is erected between His servants. So, He, thereby, has ordained that the rich feel the taste of hunger and pain so that they feel sympathy for the weak and be merciful toward the hungry.” (Wasa’il-ush-Shi’ah, vol. 7, fasting section, p. 3).
Verily, if the populations of rich countries throughout the world customarily fast a few days a year and feel the taste of hunger, will there still remain so many hungry people in the world?
Fasting and Its Hygienical & Remedial Effects
In modern medicine, as well as the old one, the miraculous effect of ‘abstinence’ in curing various kinds of sicknesses have been proven so evidently that it cannot be deniable. Several of physicians have pointed out this fact in their scientific notes.
As all of us know, the reason of the origin of many diseases is gluttony, because the unabsorbed extra materials of food-stuffs in the form of obtrusive tallow or additional sugar in blood remain in different parts of the body. These additional materials, inside the levies of muscles of body, are, in fact, as some putrid oozy sites where kinds of microbes of some infectious diseases can grow. The best way of defending against these sicknesses is to annihilate them by means of abstinence and fasting.
Besides this property of fasting, which causes the additional and unabsorbed materials of the body to be burnt, fasting is a considerable factor for servicing the body with giving a rest to the organs of digestion. This rest is extremely necessary for these organs. They are the most important parts of the body and are continuously busy working throughout the year.
It is clear that one who observes the fast, as Islam advises, ought not to eat too much food at the time of breaking the fast and just before the dawn during the fasting month of Ramadan in order to enjoy the result of the hygienic effect of fasting, otherwise the consequence may become contrary.
Alexy Sufurin, a Russian scientist, writes in his book that by means of fasting a specific result can be obtained in treating diseases such as: anemia, dyspepsia, chronic extended enteritis, furuncle and inner abscess, consumption, rheumatism, gout (padagra, chiragra, gonagra) , dropsy, sciatica, some ophthalmic diseases, diabetes, skin diseases, renal diseases, and so on.
Treatment through fasting is not limited to the foregoing diseases alone, but also the sicknesses concerning the fundamentals of the body involving the bodily cells like cancer, syphilis, and plague can be cured by means of fasting. (Fasting, a New Method in Treating Diseases, p. 65 (first edition)
The holy Prophet (p.b.u.h.) is narrated to have said in a famous tradition: “Fast to be healthy.” (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 96, p. 255)
Again, in another tradition he (p.b.u.h.) has said: “The stomach is the site of all ailments, while dietary (abstinence) is the head of all remedies.” (Bihar-ul-Anwar, vol. 62, p. 290)
Fasting in Former Religions
The existing Torah and Bible indicate that the Jews and the Christians had fasting, too, (Math.6:16,17; and Luke 5: 33-35) . The followers of some other religions used to fast in times of sorrow and affliction. In the Lexicon of the Bible it is cited that fasting, in general, has always been practiced among every nation and in any religion at the time of an unexpected sorrow or disaster (The Lexicon of the Bible, p. 427).
It is also caught from the Torah that Moses (A.S.) had forty days of fasting. It is cited in the Old Testament thus: “When I was gone up into the mount to receive the tables of stone, even the tables of covenant which the Lord made with you, then I abode in the mount forty days and forty nights, I neither did eat bread nor drink water.” (The Old Testament, Book called Deuteronomy, Chapter 9, No. 9, p. 222, English version printed by British and Foreign Bible Society, A.D. 1611)
Also, at the time of repentance and seeking the pleasure of the Lord, the Jews fasted. So, it is cited in the Lexicon of the Bible that when the Jews got the opportunity that they wanted to state their weakness and humility before the Lord, they fasted in order that they confess their faults and to obtain the pleasure of His Essence by means of that fasting and repentance.( The Lexicon of the Bible, p. 428)
It is probable that ‘the Great Fasting with atonement’, which was for one particular day a year, was common among the Jewish people. They had, of course, some other temporary days to fast in remembrance of the destruction of Jerusalem, etc., too. (Ibid)
As the Bible indicates, Jesus (A.S.) had also forty days of fasting. It says thus:
“Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 2) And when he had fasted forty days and nights, he was afterward an hungered.
It is also understood from the Evangel that the disciples of Jesus used to fast. It says: “33) And they said unto him, Why do the disciples of John fast often and make prayers, and likewise the disciples of the Pharisees; but thine eat and drink? 34) And he said unto them, Can ye make the children of the bride chamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? 35) But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast those days.” (The New Testament, the Gospel St. Luke, Chapter 5, No. 33-35, p. 1053 (English version), printed by London, the British and Foreign Bible Society, A.D. 1911).
Again, it is cited in the Lexicon of the Bible that the lives of disciples and believers, in old times, were full of negation of pleasure and tremendous toils accompanied with observing the fast. (Ibid, and the Lexicon of the Bible, p. 428).
Thus, the Qur’anic sentence saying: “… as it was prescribed for those before you …” is also confirmed with many historical religious evidences existing in other divine religions even after they had been perverted.
Ramadan, the Transcendent Month
The month of Ramadan has been selected for fasting because it has a preference to other lunar months of the year. In the verse under discussion, this preference is stated such that the Qur’an, which is the Book of Guidance for humankind and, with its commands and legislations, has separated the right from wrong to lead man toward prosperity, was revealed in the month of Ramadan.
Besides that, both some verses of the Qur’an and the Islamic literature indicate that all the great heavenly Books, such as the Torah, the Bible, the Psalms of David, the Books of Ibrahim, and the Qur’an, have all totally been sent down in this month.
In this respect, Imam Sadiq (A.S.) said: “The Torah was sent down on the sixth of Ramadan, the Bible on the twelfth, the Psalms on the eighteenth and the Qur’an by the Night of Destiny (Laylat-ul-Qadr) in Ramadan.” (Wasa’il-ush-Shi’ah, vol. 7, section 18, tradition 16).
Thus, the month of Ramadan had always been the month of the great heavenly Books to be sent down. This month had been the month of education, since training without teaching and practice is fruitless. The training aim of Fasting should also be parallel with the more and the utmost profound knowledge about the divine instructions so that it wipes out the soul and self of man from sin.
Once, on the last Friday of Sha’ban, the Prophet of Islam (p.b.u.h.) delivered a sermon about the significant of the month of Ramadan to prepare his companions for receiving this sacred month.
In that great sermon he (p.b.u.h.) said:
“O’ people! Allah’s month has approached you laden with blessing, mercy and forgiveness. It is a month which Allah regards as the best of all months.”
“Its days, in the sight of Allah, are the best of days; its nights are the best of nights; and its hours are the best of hours.”
“It is a month in which you are invited to be the guests of Allah, and you are regarded during it as worthy of Allah’s Grace.”
“In this month, your breathing praises Allah, and your sleeping adores Him. Your deeds (of worship) are accepted, and your pleas are answered therein.”
“Therefore, ask Allah, your Lord, in sincere intentions and pure hearts to enable you to observe the fast and to recite His Book (the Qur’an) during this month, for only a wretch is the one who is deprived of Allah’s Forgiveness in this great month.”
“Let your hunger and thirst during it remind you of the hunger and the thirst of the Day of Judgment. Give alms to the poor and indigent among you, respect your elderly and be kind to your youngsters, and strengthen blood-kinship of yours.”
“Safeguard your tongues (from sin), do not look at what Allah has prohibited your eyes from watching it, and do not listen to what your ears are forbidden to hear. Be kind to the orphans of other people, so that your own orphans be consequently given affections, too. …”
The Principle of ‘ No Hardship’
In the above mentioned verse, this matter was pointed out that Allah’s Will is not that you be troubled and uneasy, but He ordained so that you feel ease. It is certain that this ordinance here is about the proposition of fasting and its benefits together with the concerning commandment due to passengers and sick persons. But, regarding its universality, this ordinance has been used as a general principle upon all Islamic rules, and the verse has been taken as a reference for it which is known as the rule of ‘ No Hardship ‘ (la-haraj) among jurisprudents.
This religious rule says that the foundation of the Islamic legislation is not based upon hardship. So, if, somewhere, an ordinance creates intense hardship, it can be exempted temporarily. For instance, the jurisprudents have said that when performing one’s ablution or standing erect, and the like of them, due to establishing prayers requires much pain, it changes to dry ablution and prayers in sitting position.
Concerning the lack of hardship in Islam, it is also stated in Sura Hajj No. 22,verse 78, thus: “…He has chosen you and has not laid upon you any hardship in religion.”
Also, another hint to this subject is the famous tradition of the Messenger of Allah (p.b.u.h.) where he says: “I was appointed to a tolerant and facile religion.” (Kanz-ul’Ummal, vol. 1, p. 178; & vol. 11, p. 445).
By the way, fasting had been in vogue in every religion in some form or other. It is one of the cardinal doctrines of the practice of the faith, in Islam, taking its rank next only to the obligatory five times daily prayers. The practice of fasting was enjoined by all the prophets of Allah who preceded the holy Prophet Muhammad (p.b.u.h.).
It should also be noted that fasting in Islam is to train to suppress our natural appetites and shun evil. It does not mean abstaining only from food but from every kind of evil. Abstention from food is only a step towards the realization that if one has to abstain from that which is lawful, how much more he must abstain from what had been forbidden by Allah. The main object of the Islamic fast is to purify the conduct and character and get the soul charged with divine attributes of Allah in the practical life for one complete month.
It helps the Muslims to guard themselves against evil as well as conditioning with restrain by habituating themselves to suffer physical affliction and self-control and resistance and fortitude which they must always be prepared to suffer in the defense of faith and the faithful.
On the other hand, since Islam is a tolerant and easy religion, fasting is not allowed for those who are on lawful journey. Or, it is exempted for Muslims in the case of the risk of any illness being aggravated, testified by a reliable doctor. This is due to the fact that Islam does not put intense hardship for its followers.
Now before you race off and work on your New Resolutions, I want to propose a new take on this old tradition. Of course it is great to create new goals and direction for your life but sometimes there is more power and energy by committing to just one core resolution which opens up the opportunities to all of your hearts desires.
I’d like to explain by sharing a little secret….
And guess what? Thank goodness I did!
As a result my life has grown richer and fuller from the experience of failing. Although I can’t say I truly buy into the concept of failure. There really is no such thing. Life is a journey and it’s impossible to fail at something when you believe there are only lessons to learn from and that empower you for next time. If I had remained rigid to my goal I would have been vulnerable to making myself wrong, as we know, this can be crippling to our self-confidence and self-esteem if we fail. As a friend of mine says "If you define life as an opportunity to discover, challenge and befriend yourself then how can you ever possibly lose?" I like this woman.
So after a few months of no sugar I discovered it was becoming more important for me to read the energy of my resolution and uncover the core of what was really driving the goal. By changing my focus from external to internal I channeled more love and acceptance on to myself. I started to speak to myself with kindness and compassion and brought the expectations bar down for myself and in turn others. As you can imagine I hadn’t intended to find greater inner peace on my quest to give up sugar but this one resolution of being accepting of myself has channeled more positive change and opportunities into my life than the absence of sugar ever could have!
So how about you just pick one resolution this year, to be more kind, compassionate and loving to yourself. And from that space you can decide how you wish to direct your life.
Here are some of my key ‘leanings’ I gratefully received from my journey of unsuccessfully giving up sugar:
1. Instead of putting all sugar under one big fat depriving blanket of ‘No’, I learned to say no to processed sugar and yes to natural sugar and step away from my perfectionist (and debilitating) thinking.
2. I learned to accept my love of natural sugar (and my faults in the process).
3. I discovered I’m a monster without sugar to sweeten my day (apologies again to my husband).
4. Accepting I’m a flawed human being by design. (It’s liberating and freeing to not be perfect).
5. My change in diet lead to a whole new range of healthy food and cooking skills.
6. I can now make healthy ‘faux’ chocolate. (it’s better than the real thing!)
7. I witnessed first hand the deceptive brain messages of habit and how to overcome and break their spell.
8. I learned sugar wasn’t the culprit to poor energy but gluten and dairy was. (which I effortlessly gave up in March 2013).
9. I stood in the face of vulnerability as friends and family’s eyebrows raised over another ‘crazy diet’.
10. I built the courage to admit to others that I was back on sugar.
11. I’d rather listen and act on my body’s nutritional requests than what the latest ‘food trend’ declares.
12. There is no silver bullet to perfect health. It’s all about taking one day at a time.
Feeling sad, mad, critical or otherwise awful? Surprise: negative emotions are essential for mental health
Courtesy: By Tori Rodriguez
"Taking the Bad with the Good" 2013, Published in 2013
A client sits before me, seeking help untangling his relationship problems. As a psychotherapist, I strive to be warm, nonjudgmental and encouraging. I am a bit unsettled, then, when in the midst of describing his painful experiences, he says, “I'm sorry for being so negative.”
A crucial goal of therapy is to learn to acknowledge and express a full range of emotions, and here was a client apologizing for doing just that. In my psychotherapy practice, many of my clients struggle with highly distressing emotions, such as extreme anger, or with suicidal thoughts. In recent years I have noticed an increase in the number of people who also feel guilty or ashamed about what they perceive to be negativity. Such reactions undoubtedly stem from our culture's overriding bias toward positive thinking. Although positive emotions are worth cultivating, problems arise when people start believing they must be upbeat all the time.
In fact, anger and sadness are an important part of life, and new research shows that experiencing and accepting such emotions are vital to our mental health. Attempting to suppress thoughts can backfire and even diminish our sense of contentment. “Acknowledging the complexity of life may be an especially fruitful path to psychological well-being,” says psychologist Jonathan M. Adler of the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.
Positive thoughts and emotions can, of course, benefit mental health. Hedonic theories define well-being as the presence of positive emotion, the relative absence of negative emotion and a sense of life satisfaction. Taken to an extreme, however, that definition is not congruent with the messiness of real life. In addition, people's outlook can become so rosy that they ignore dangers or become complacent Eudaemonic approaches, on the other hand, emphasize a sense of meaning, personal growth and understanding of the self—goals that require confronting life's adversities. Unpleasant feelings are just as crucial as the enjoyable ones in helping you make sense of life's ups and downs. “Remember, one of the primary reasons we have emotions in the first place is to help us evaluate our experiences,” Adler says.
Adler and Hal E. Hershfield, a professor of marketing at New York University, investigated the link between mixed emotional experience and psychological welfare in a group of people undergoing 12 sessions of psychotherapy. Before each session, participants completed a questionnaire that assessed their psychological well-being. They also wrote narratives describing their life events and their time in therapy, which were coded for emotional content. As Adler and Hershfield reported in 2012, feeling cheerful and dejected at the same time—for example, “I feel sad at times because of everything I've been through, but I'm also happy and hopeful because I'm working through my issues”—preceded improvements in well-being over the next week or two for subjects, even if the mixed feelings were unpleasant at the time. “Taking the good and the bad together may detoxify the bad experiences, allowing you to make meaning out of them in a way that supports psychological well-being,” the researchers found.
Negative emotions also most likely aid in our survival. Bad feelings can be vital clues that a health issue, relationship or other important matter needs attention, Adler points out. The survival value of negative thoughts and emotions may help explain why suppressing them is so fruitless. In a 2009 study psychologist David J. Kavanagh of Queensland University of Technology in Australia and his colleagues asked people in treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction to complete a questionnaire that assessed their drinking-related urges and cravings, as well as any attempts to suppress thoughts related to booze over the previous 24 hours. They found that those who often fought against intrusive alcohol-related thoughts actually harbored more of them. Similar findings from a 2010 study suggested that pushing back negative emotions could spawn more emotional overeating than simply recognizing that you were, say, upset, agitated or blue.
Even if you successfully avoid contemplating a topic, your subconscious may still dwell on it. In a 2011 study psychologist Richard A. Bryant and his colleagues at the University of New South Wales in Sydney told some participants, but not others, to suppress an unwanted thought prior to sleep. Those who tried to muffle the thought reported dreaming about it more, a phenomenon called dream rebound.
Suppressing thoughts and feelings can even be harmful. In a 2012 study psychotherapist Eric L. Garland of Florida State University and his associates measured a stress response based on heart rate in 58 adults in treatment for alcohol dependence while exposing them to alcohol-related cues. Subjects also completed a measure of their tendency to suppress thoughts. The researchers found that those who restrained their thinking more often had stronger stress responses to the cues than did those who suppressed their thoughts less frequently.
Accepting the Pain
Instead of backing away from negative emotions, accept them. Acknowledge how you are feeling without rushing to change your emotional state. Many people find it helpful to breathe slowly and deeply while learning to tolerate strong feelings or to imagine the feelings as floating clouds, as a reminder that they will pass. I often tell my clients that a thought is just a thought and a feeling just a feeling, nothing more.
If the emotion is overwhelming, you may want to express how you feel in a journal or to another person. The exercise may shift your perspective and bring a sense of closure. If the discomfort lingers, consider taking action. You may want to tell a friend her comment was hurtful or take steps to leave the job that makes you miserable.
You may also try doing mindfulness exercises to help you become aware of your present experience without passing judgment on it. One way to train yourself to adopt this state is to focus on your breathing while meditating and simply acknowledge any fleeting thoughts or feelings. This practice may make it easier to accept unpleasant Earlier this year Garland and his colleagues found that among 125 individuals with a history of trauma who were also in treatment for substance dependence, those who were naturally more mindful both coped better with their trauma and craved their drug less. Likewise, in a 2012 study psychologist Shannon Sauer-Zavala of Boston University and her co-workers found that a therapy that included mindfulness training helped individuals overcome anxiety disorders. It worked not by minimizing the number of negative feelings but by training patients to accept those feelings.
“It is impossible to avoid negative emotions altogether because to live is to experience setbacks and conflicts,” Sauer-Zavala says. Learning how to cope with those emotions is the key, she adds. Indeed, once my client accepted his thoughts and feelings, shaking off his shame and guilt, he saw his problems with greater clarity and proceeded down the path to recovery.
Reference: This article was originally published with the title "Taking the Bad with the Good" 2013.
TORI RODRIGUEZ is a writer and psychotherapist in private practice in Atlanta.
"Born in Nasirabad, a small village in the lower Hunza valley, I remember our lives being dictated not by a calendar or a clock but by the climate and seasons. I remember celebrating wheat harvest for we could regularly eat bread thenceforth. In the spring, I remember eating mulberries and dried apricots for lunch and dinner. I loved collecting mulberries: shaking the branches of a tree, picking up the fruit and gobbling down handfuls without noticing that half of what I ate was sand. Life was simple and serene, but also challenging.
I was lucky to have access to the local Aga Khan Diamond Jubilee School, essentially a make-shift school with only one instructor who taught multiple classes, six days a week, from early mornings till late afternoons. Like many school-going children, I fancied skipping classes but only to be caught red-handed by my cousin and brought back to the school. I was, nevertheless, the class-monitor and would often lead lessons in the absence of the teacher. Perhaps, that was an early sign of my interest in teaching as a profession.
In early sixties, I moved to Karachi where my elder brother lived. With his support, I completed secondary and higher secondary schools with good grades. I did my BA from Saint Patrick’s College, Karachi while also working part-time at a factory and leading a worker’s union. I also managed to complete professional teaching courses and a diploma in English language during those years. Regarding my life outside of work and studies, I enjoyed spending time with friends and doing social work. Karachi was a vibrant city back then. It was clean, safe and economical.
Following my BA, I dedicated most of my time to teaching. I taught at two schools during the day and ran a private tuition center in the evening. I was primarily an English language teacher but I also taught social studies and history. I was known as a storyteller amongst my students due to my love of folktales. I loved my work. Being in school felt like home to me. I was beginning to realize that teaching was my passion.
In 1980, following my father’s passing, I returned to Hunza. Within a few months I was offered a teaching job at Public Schools and Colleges Jutial, Gilgit, formerly known as Federal Government Public School. At that time I did not know I would end up spending the rest of my professional life working there. Some may call it settling down a bit too early, but to me, the thirty-three years I spent at the school entailed a new experience, a new challenge every day.
In the initial years, being one of the few local teachers at the school, I always felt responsible to adopt a sound and context-specific teaching methodology. I tried to teach in a manner that catered to individual needs of students, and whenever possible, had meetings with parents to discuss students’ progress. On a personal level, I continued my education as a part time student and received a post-graduate degree and a professional teaching certificate from Punjab University. It was a challenging but a rewarding process.
During the many years I spent at the school, I saw it grow from a primary school to an undergraduate college. I also got a first-hand experience of the rich diversity that exists in a region as small as Gilgit-Baltistan. The languages, habits, routines, perceptions, opinions, attitudes, and conscious and unconscious actions of those around me helped me reinvent and rediscover what it meant to be a teacher. One thing that did consistently remain part of my pedagogy was storytelling. Perhaps that is what most of my students remember about my teaching and keep referring back to every time I see them.
The school remained an integral part of my life for thirty-three years. I was deeply attached with my profession, the students, the constructions, even the plants and trees at the school. Towards the end of my tenure, it was remarkable to see the children of my former students becoming my students again and sharing with me childhood accounts of their parents. It made me consistently question, analyze and improve my role as a senior mentor of the institution.
Following my retirement in December 2013, the Science Block of the school was named after me in recognition of my services. It felt great, but what feels greater is to see my students excelling in different fields including engineering, arts and crafts, business, medicine, army, civil bureaucracy, and above all, teaching. I go back to the school sometimes to meet with my colleagues and to observe student activity. I am hopeful that in the coming years the school will continue to grow not just quantitatively but also quality-wise. "
(Sir Shakoor Khan, Nasirabad, Hunza)
Story narrated by Irfan Shakoor
Just added few glimpses from the past.We would like to have old collections from our dear fellows and their contribution in this regard is deemed highly appreciable
If you can contribute either in shape of old snaps, any records, or any material / writing that could boost our passion and and let us recall those golden memories from the PAST
email us any material if you have @
We are establishing a data base for our Jutialians.Already have managed to get hold of records up-to 8-10 batches since 1983-84
Any one who could share details in a collective way will be appreciated.Ont he other hand, individual introduction might also be helpful.
We have added what we got or know by our personal contacts.For sure its like a bubble in the ocean, thus collectively we might be able to proceed successfully, thus we need an aggressive response so that energies will be upheld, and efforts will not be diminished