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Why Ramadan is the Worst Time For Dietary Changes

by Mubarakah Ibrahim CPT

Leading up to Ramadan every year I hear about so many well intended plans on how RAMADAN is going to be a new start for how this person is going to eat, and how that person is going to diet and change this and that about their health.  But Ramadan is the worse time to go on a diet, change your eating and exercise routine or try to lose weight. 

Ramadan is a physical act for spiritual enlightenment.  It is meant for ibada, nothing more.  It is a time for the believer to get closer to Allah through doing something solely for the sake of the Lords of the worlds.  Allah says "”Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving then times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, 'Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me. For the fasting person there are two times of joy; a time when he breaks his fast and a time of joy when he meets his Lord, and the smell coming from the mouth of the fasting person is better with Allah than the smell of musk." [al-Bukhaaree]”

In Islam we are informed that actions are based on intentions.  Each and every act we do, be it the fast, the salat or any other thing that should be for the sake of Allah will only get the reward of the intentions behind the person who committed the act.  Br. Isa al-Bosnee wrote in an article that articulated the purpose of the fast, ”Without a correct intention, no deed is of any value in the Hereafter. We Muslims must constantly verify our intentions and consider why we perform fasting. Do we do so merely because it is the practice of our parents and friends, or do we do so because it is part of our tradition, or perhaps because we simply want to conform to our environment in order to avoid any problems? A Muslim who realizes that only that which is with Allah remains, and that He (Swt) is the only One who grants and withholds, would not be of those to which the Prophet (s.a.w.) alluded in the Hadeeth: "On the Day of Judgment, a caller will cry out, 'Whoever performed a deed for someone other than Allah may seek his reward from that for which he performed the deed' " [Saheeh al-Jami].”

As human beings we must always be aware of our humanness and know that we have to always check our intentions when we do ibadah.  Sometimes we may start off with the proper intentions and then while doing an act our intentions change. We may begin by seeking the reward of Allah but then notice we are being observed by someone and make our voice more melodious, our tajweed more clear, and thus what began with good intentions ends with showing off, “riya”, which is a form of shirk. 

Each day of fasting we must constantly be conscious that our intentions did not change from pleasing Allah and fulfilling our obligations as slaves of Allah to trying to diet under obligation of fulfillment of ibadah.

Fasting in the worse time to change your dietary habits.  Starting a new diet, be it a caloric limiting diet or a colon cleanse or a new way of eating requires us to be conscious of our bodies and how it response to our “new” found behaviors.  Sometimes diets that are restrictive or even diets that drastically different from what we are use to can shock our systems.  Often people who go through internal cleansing programs report having a couple days of feeling “flu” like symptoms before they feel renewed with energy and vitality as a result of the cleanse.  Others who are on calorie restrictive diets for weight loss may feel the lack of energy as a result. 

Common symptoms due to a change in eating habits are headaches, constipation, diarrhea, joint pain, fatigue and a host of other physical maladies, be it temporary or an actual illness.  
When you combine the fast of Ramadan with a dietary change you not only jeopardize your intentions for the fast but you also limit your ability to really assess the sources of any abnormal symptoms you may feel.  The fast itself come with a host of challenges especially for those who have not fasted occasionally throughout the year.  If the challenges of the fast are overlapped with the physical symptoms of dramatic dietary changes you may not be able to discern between the two.  In addition you run the risk of making yourself ill unnecessarily, and as a result, you may miss essential days of fasting due to the illness.

Ninety-nine percent of us are searching for the perfect diet, the healthful way of eating that will allow us to manage our weight, feel energetic and full of strength and vitality.  The truth is it is a life journey in which we will find resting places, hidden treasures and moments that we bask in the sun. But we continue this journey our entire life.  What hinders the travel is when we get off the beaten path by not making pleasing our Lord our first priority.  There will be time to bask in hidden hot springs, stand in the water falls and sit on the cliffs to admire the rainbow, but we must trek forward even when we are tired or bored or just don’t feel like it—simply because we must.   When the terrain begins to incline and the sweat is gracing our brows, this is not the time to change directions or pick up extra baggage.  This is the time to push forward towards the summit. Fulfill our obligation to our Lord first, with pure intentions.  Give Him his due and then after Ramadan work on changes for greater wellness.

Any mistake is from the author.  May Allah forgive me and have mercy on me and any correctness or good is for Allah may he benefit us through it.-Ameen


Mubarakah Ibrahim is a AFAA Certified Personal Trainer.  www.balanceCT. com
Fasting Ramadan, Its Virtues & Rulings
By Br. Isa al-Bosnawi 
Published in the 11th issue of Nida'ul Islam magazine, January-February 1996

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