First I want to ask you, given that Ramadan is coming up, how do you suggest people can manage fasting and maintain a healthy lifestyle?
Firstly, the most important aspect is suhoor. A lot of us skip it and only have a glass of water before Fajr, but this will negatively affect the quality of your day- physically, spiritually and emotionally. You may not be able to do ibadah (acts of worship) as well – because your energy levels are lower than usual. Skipping suhoor can also cause digestive disturbances and when your energy is depleted you can become easily frustrated, impatient with yourself or others and sometimes unable to think straight.
As you can see, skipping suhoor has a negative domino effect on how you’ll perform for the rest of the day.
Well, now that we’ve established the importance of having suhoor, the second thing we need to ensure is that the food we’re eating for suhoor will give us sufficient energy throughout the day.
Usually we eat left-over food from iftar the night before, or sugary sweets and salty snacks. It’s fine to eat your traditional meals, but just improve them by substituting parts of it with healthier alternatives. For example, use brown rice instead of white rice. The Prophet PBUH used to prefer bali and oats, so these are also great options. Just 16 of 56
choose a non-dairy milk to go with it, such as almond or oat milk. You could even add some dates for additional fibre.
Hydration is the other key element – so make sure you have at least four-five cups of water with suhoor. If you’re waking up ten minutes before the athaan and try to scoff down everything it’ll only be a matter of time before you’ll feel the urge to go to the toilet. We see the wisdom behind why the Prophet PBUH said not to drink water like a camel and why the sunnah of the prophet PBUH was to drink water in three gulps. All this is to ensure we don’t stretch out our stomach and get rid of the water in our body moments after, as our body simply cannot absorb that much water in such a short period of time.
We know the sunnah is to break your fast with a date and water do you know the scientific reason behind that?
SubhanAllah, the wisdom behind that is, after ten hours or so of not consuming food, when you break your fast with a date your blood sugar rises almost immediately as they’re high GI. This is opposed to if you break your fast with wholemeal rice or some vegetables that are low GI- they wouldn’t pick up your energy levels as fast as a date.
Likewise, breaking your fast with water has the same philosophy scientifically. Water is a fluid, and when you hydrate your body your blood sugar will start to increase. After a state of moderate blood pressure due to not eating the whole day, consuming a glass of water liquefies your blood and enhances your blood motion, allowing for blood to be taken to the brain a lot faster and to the limbs – ultimately, it’s just putting in the correct fuel for the body post-fasting.
The other important aspect – and people may not be too happy to hear this – is eliminating the consumption of desserts immediately after dinner. Sugar is not a must, it’s not even food!
You also need to avoid over-eating – When you’re at taraweeh and everyone’s burping and you can literally smell digestion in the air – how do you anticipate to find yourself in a state of euphoria when praying? When the reality is that you’re actually in a state of bloating and your stomach is grouting because of the amount of food you ate!
Waking up at 3am to consume food isn’t part of our normal routine, on top of that we are waking up at weird hours of the night for qiyam and taraweeh, so, how can we counter any negative effects this might have on our bodies with our nutritional intake? Should we even be eating at those hours?
I think there’s two approaches to this; tawakul and coffee.
I’ll give you an example: During the Ottoman Empire, students would utilize coffee by drinking a short black – with no milk or sugar, just coffee mixed with water to elongate their night when they felt their energy levels decrease, so they could stay up and continue their Qur’an memorisation.
Now will that work for our people in the 21st century? Probably not.
We’re already having three-four double shot cups a day, so our body is probably so immune to the amount of caffeine we’ve introduced over the course of our life.
Other alternatives can be consuming dried nuts, dates, seeds, apricots, a cup of tea (green tea and ginger help with circulation). At that time of the night we don’t need that much energy, as it’s not as physically demanding as during the day, so you don’t need to consume 1,000 calories to stay up. Some tea with a couple of dates to keep your blood pressure up will suffice.
Secondly, I say tawakul because we often forget to put our trust in Allah SWT in things that we think only have a material value; such as staying up. Yes of course we feel as if we need physical energy, but we also need spiritual energy which is intangible!
Fasting provides the body a well-needed detox and so it’s a blessing that fasting was made compulsory for us! For, how many of us would detox our bodies if it weren’t for the fasting that Allah prescribed for us?
Okay, last question that we anticipate many young people will want answered: This year students have their exams in Ramadan and often these students also want to be apart ofthe different activities such as organising iftar’s and qiyam nights. What would you suggest for a young person to be able to balance all these things and not be exhausted or have their body take a huge toll on itself by the end of the Ramadan?
Food plays such a prominent role in all of this.If we consume the right amount of foods, we are energising ourselves correctly. There are certain brain foods that fuel us correctly – like nuts, avocados and bananas. Eating in season is also very important – but unfortunately there’s no quick fix solution. It’s a matter of readying yourself pre-Ramadan for at least a month and bettering our physical habits by getting up early for Fajr, ensuring you go to bed in a timely manner and studying after qiyam. A lot of us cram last minute – again that’s all our fault. So it’s not that Ramadan makes our lifestyle hard, it’s our lifestyle that is so all over the place that makes it hard, as Ramadan requires you to have structure in your day to day life.
We live in a day and age where we become victims of our own challenges and I think we need to be proactive as opposed to reactive to the circumstances. It should be a matter of ‘how can I better myself’ instead of victimising yourself through exam periods.
We’re humans, and this is a world of tests so there’s always going to be challenges. So instead of asking “why we CAN’T as Muslims” we should focus on why we should and how we can.
Thanks Julide, I definitely have had a lot to gain from our conversation and I’m sure many readers will testify to this as well.
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