10 Psychological benefits of Fasting

I recently attended an online conference in which different aspects of Ramadan were discussed. The one session that really stuck with me is the one where the sister spoke about the psychological and emotional benefits of fasting. So I wanted to share with you what I had learnt.

Have you seen he who has taken as his God his (own) desire…

Quran (45:23)

We can easily take something aside from Allah as our God. If we don’t submit to Allah we will submit to something else. Whether it’s our money, our children, our job, our own self etc. So we should use Ramadan to become closer to Allah and rid ourselves of these false gods we have put in the place of Allah. As the sister discussed Ramadan is the perfect opportunity as it not only improves our spiritual self but also our psychological and emotional self. She discussed 10 psychological benefits of fasting which I will share with you.

1. Fasting disciplines us.

It teaches us self control not only in food and drink but also in all other aspects of our lives, we improve our manners and character while fasting. It also teaches delayed gratification so if we can learn not to eat all day then it gives us the ability to control ourselves and learn not to always need to fulfil our desires straight away. The most important part of delayed gratification is attaining Jannah. We can only get that in the hereafter so we have to control ourselves throughout this life. It also helps us to take our ego and become more humble. We learn a new point of reference, we see what those less fortunate than us experience and we become grateful for all that we have.

2. It teaches emotional management.

We learn to control our emotions and be in control of our desires. This month is like a training ground where we spend the month ensuring we don’t gossip, lie, get angry. So by doing this it helps us to become more emotionally mature. The prophet (saw) said: If someone fights with you or abuses you, you should say ‘I am fasting’ (Bukhari) This will remind you that you should not respond in the same manner and restrain ourselves from saying or doing anything that will reduce the reward of your fast. Eventually this will become our habit and we won’t have emotional outbursts this will mean we can express ourselves in a better way so we will be able to build better relationships.

3. It teaches empowerment.

We resist the temptation of eating and drinking all day. We control our desires and our tongue. Being able to do this successfully day after day gives us a sense of accomplishment and teaches us that we can achieve more and succeed and other things in life too. If we can do this we can do so much more.

4. It teaches mindfulness.

We spend so much of our time focusing on the past or the future. We worry about what will happen in the future, what will happen if this happens or that happens. We also put a lot of our energy into what happened in our past, we’re focusing and stuck in what happened to us, and the many what if we had done this instead. By doing this we forget what is happening in our lives right now. So when we fast we have to focus on the present, we have to focus on what is happening right now so we learn to be more in tune with the present.

5. It teaches gratification.

Most of us lives comfortable lives where we can have whatever we want. If we want to have chicken for Iftar we can the next day we can have lamb and the third day yet again something else. So we can become fussy because we can choose whatever we want. So when we are deprived of those very things we learn to appreciate what we have. That first bite of food for Iftar always tastes amazing, even if we regularly eat that same food the rest of the year. So we can also apply that gratification into other aspects of our lives and appreciate all the things we have. Especially when we realise how much more we have compared to others. The Prophet (saw) said: Be satisfied with what Allah has apportioned for you and you will be the richest of people. (Tirmidhi)

6. It teaches patience.

Every single thing we do for the dunya or the aakhirah requires patience. So while we’re fasting we have to be patient in not eating and if someone is rude to us etc. so we gain the important skill of being patient. We can then apply this into the other aspects of our lives. So if a difficulty comes to us we can be patient. When we’re trying to achieve a high goal we can be patient. It can help us deal with these situations better. The biggest test of patience is when we strive to achieve Jannah so we should use our fasting as a training for this.

7. It teaches prioritising.

We can often get our priorities mixed up with so much on our plate. So when we fast we can use this time to focus on what truly matters. While we’re fasting we are trying to gain closeness to Allah so we can also use this time to fix our priorities. How many of us are guilty of delaying our salah because we were “just too busy” when the salah time came? So now as we try to build our relationship with Allah we make Him our priority. So we make our salah our priority. We plan our day according to the salah time so it never gets delayed or missed. So in doing this for a month we can make it our habit and carry this on the rest of the year. So now we make pleasing Allah our priority rather than pleasing the creation. When you live your life to please Allah, Allah will make everyone pleased with you. The Prophet (saw) said: “If Allah loves a person, He calls Gabriel, saying, ‘Allah loves so and so, O Gabriel love him’ So Gabriel would love him and then would make an announcement in the Heavens: ‘Allah has loved so and-so therefore you should love him also.’ So all the dwellers of the Heavens would love him, and then he is granted the pleasure of the people on the earth.” (Bukhari)

8. It gives you clarity of mind.

We spend a lot of our time thinking about what we’re going to cook and what we’re going to eat. So when we fast we don’t need to think about this anymore and so as we’re not consumed with eating during the day it frees our time to think about more important things.

9. It helps us increase our empathy.

While the purpose of fasting is to gain taqwa, a benefit is that we realise what others who aren’t as fortunate as us experience. We still have the ability to open our fast with plenty of food on our tables at iftar but others barely have a date or water. It makes us more compassionate towards others. In fact it is during this time we all give in charity more and share our food with those less fortunate than us. The prophet (saw) said: When one of you looks at one who stands at a higher level than you in regard to wealth and physical structure he should also see one who stands at a lower level than you in regard to these things. (Muslim)

10. It gives us spiritual enlightenment.

This month is like a boot camp where we have intense training in improving our relationship with Alah and with the people around us and we learn how be become better Muslims, improve our manners and character. So with this intense training we can learn to pace ourselves throughout the year. This will then help us for the rest of our lives and the way we live our life will determine the way you die. The prophet (saw) said: Each person will be resurrected according to the state in which he died. (Muslim)

I hope you found this beneficial inshaAllah, if we can keep these in mind then we can get the full benefits of fasting inshaAllah.

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It’s Ramadan and I can’t fast!

So the blessed month is upon us alhamdulillah! But I know that for us girls we always face one problem, what do we do when we start menstruating and we can’t fast? When everyone around us is fasting and we are unable to. We feel left out and upset that we can’t reap the rewards of fasting in this month. But alhamdulillah this is something that has been given to us by Allah so we shouldn’t feel frustrated by it. It is a blessing that Allah has commanded us not to fast while we are menstruating, we are in pain and we can feel weaker during these days so Allah has given us a “break” so that we can maintain good health. But this doesn’t mean we can do any acts of worship. There are in fact many things we can do during these days to continue to gain rewards even while we aren’t fasting.
1. Listen to the Quran recitation.
The time you would spend reading the Quran, fill that instead with listening to it. There are many recitors that you can listen to. Pay full attention to what is being recited so that you can truly benefit from the recitation.
Allah says: …So give good tidings to my servants who listen to the Quran and follow the best of it… Quran (39:17-18)
2. Read the translation of the Quran.
Most of us can’t understand Arabic so when we read the Quran we don’t actually know what’s being said. So reading the translation in a language you understand is so important. How else will we know what Allah is teaching us. How else will we be able to ponder and reflect on what the Quran is teaching you. 
3. Read the tafsir of the Quran 
When we read the translation we can gain some understanding of what Allah is telling us but it may not always be clear. So we should also read the tafsir of the Quran so that we can gain deeper understanding of the surahs. Now we have access to the Internet so it’s even easier to learn tafsir. You can YouTube videos done by shaykhs on different surahs of the Quran and each video may give you a different perspective so you can understand to a much deeper level. With understanding the Quran better we can implement what we learn easier.
Allah says: (This is) a blessed book which We have revealed to you, (O Muhammad), that they may reflect upon its verses and that those of understanding would be reminded. Quran (38:29)
4. Dhikr of Allah 
Even though we can’t pray our salah we can still do our dhikr, alhamdulillah, subhanAllah, Allahu Akbar. Remembering and glorifying Allah is one of the easiest acts of ibadah yet it is often the most neglected. We can make dhikr while cooking, at work, driving and even while relaxing at home. The more we remember Allah the closer to Him we become. But we should remember Allah in our hearts not just by our tongues. Not making dhikr of Allah will be our greatest regret in the hereafter.
The prophet (saw) said: The people of paradise will not regret anything except one thing alone: the hour that passed them by in which they made no remembrance of Allah. (Bayhaqi)
5. Making abundant dua
Dua is something we should do consistently throughout the year and we should increase it Ramadan. Dua is our way of building a deep and personal relationship with Allah. We need Allah for even the smallest of things yet Allah is not in need of anything from us. So dua is a gift to us from Allah to be able to ask from Him every single thing we need or want. Dua has such great importance that it is mentioned several times by Allah and the prophet (saw). Allah listens to all of our duas, He always responds to every single dua and He wants us to make dua so that He may answer it.
Allah says: And when my servants ask you, (O Muhammad), concerning Me – indeed I am near. I respond to the invocation of the supplicant when he calls upon Me. Quran (2:186)
We should also learn the times in which duas are most accepted. The last third of the night, when it rains, between adhaan and iqamah, the night of qadr, while travelling and at the time of breaking the fast is just some of these times.
6. Increase in islamic knowledge
You may not be able to pray your salah or fast but you can learn and study about how to increase your khushoo in salah or what nullifies your fast. You can spend time studying the seerah of the prophet (saw) or the sahaba or the wives of the prophet (saw). How to get closer to Allah, diseases of the heart and so much more for us to learn about. We should never stop learning and studying and we can use this time to increase our knowledge and try to implement what we learn. We can read books, watch videos online, listen to audio lectures, attend classes in your local area or read articles online. There are so many ways for us to increase our knowledge and it is much easier for us now to access these than it used to be so we should take advantage of this. We are taught the dua to ask Allah to increase our knowledge and this dua is the only dua in which we are told to ask for an increase in anything.
The prophet (saw) said: Seeking knowledge is obligatory for every muslim. (Tirmidhi) 
7. Seek forgiveness 
We should be constantly seeking forgiveness as we are all sinners so we should ask Allah to forgive us for all and every sin we have committed. We should ask Allah to save us from the punishment of the hell fire. We have even been given a special dua to recite during Ramadan and especially to recite this in the last ten nights when we are searching for the night of qadr. 
Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu annee 
O Allah, You are the pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon me. (Tirmidhi)
8. Feed a fasting person 
Although we may not be able to fast ourselves we can still gain great reward for providing iftar for others who are fasting. This is actually the best time to invite others to open their fast in your home. You will find it easier to cook as you’re not fasting and you can get the reward for feeding a fasting person.
The prophet (saw) said: whoever gives Iftar to the one who is fasting will have a reward like his, without that detracting the reward of the fasting person in the slightest. (Tirmidhi)
9. Give charity or volunteer for a charity organisation 
Be generous in what you give, give as much as you can to reap many rewards. You can feed a poor person, donate to a charitable cause, sponsor an orphan etc. but it doesn’t have to be just money, charity is far more than that. Smiling is a charity, helping an elderly neighbour, babysit for a family member or friend so they can go pray at the masjid, help run a charity event, bake cakes for your neighbours, volunteer at an elderly home, the possibilities are endless. 
Ibn Abbas said: The prophet (saw) was the most generous of the people, and he used to be even more so in the month of Ramadan, he would be more generous than a swift wind (bringing rain). (Bukhari)
There is so much more that you can do aside from what I have listed. Helping your parents and family members, keeping ties of kinship, enjoining good, forbidding evil, giving dawah, we can focus on self-improvement, try and build good habits, get rid of bad habits etc. 
So even though we cannot fast for a few days don’t feel like you will miss out on all the rewards. You can still build that closeness to Allah through many other acts of worship and that is the aim of Ramadan. 
Allah says: …God intends ease for you and does not intend hardship… Quran (2:185)
This is the ayah in which Allah talks about fasting so we should consider it a blessing that Allah has made it easy for us to not only fast but also that he has made it easy for us women who will be menstruating and the weakness that comes at this time. Otherwise we could have faced many difficulties if we had been told to fast at this time. All is indeed Ar-Rahman. Alhamdulillah! 

Hijama

So about a week ago I had my first experience with hijama (also known as cupping). I have to say I was so nervous and didn’t know what to expect. But alhamdulillah it is the best appointment I ever made!
I have several health conditions which means I suffer from chronic back pain which spreads through my legs and shoulders. I was struggling to maintain my day to day activities and standing even long enough to cook the dinner was some of my most difficult tasks. Spending the day going out somewhere that involved walking for long periods was out of the question. And I literally survived off painkillers, having to take several daily. The doctors had reached a point where they had said aside from major spinal surgery there isn’t a lot we can do. Just keep taking your painkillers. So for a long time I just dealt with the pain and continued the best I could. I had thought about hijama several times but was always to nervous to actually go for it. But recently a lovely sister I know became certified to do hijama so I thought okay let’s go for it.
So she came to my house to do the hijama which was a plus as it was much more comfortable than going to have it done somewhere else. She discussed in detail my health conditions so as to provide a good treatment and then we started the hijama. It was actually nothing like I had imagined. I barely felt any pain, it was more of a scratch and I didn’t feel light headed at all. I had the hijama done on my back and feet. Afterwards I was sore due to the hijama for that evening but the next day I barely felt it. She also advised me on sunnah foods to eat to help my health conditions. I have to say it was a really good experience. Alhamdulillah.
But the way I felt after the hijama was just amazing! The only pain I felt in my back since having the hijama is an ache and I generally feel great. I have much more energy to do things and my daily activities are so much easier to do. I can now cook dinner much easier and I even took my cousins to the park and played tag with them! Something I haven’t been able to do in years! I don’t feel so exhausted when my husband comes home from work so I can spend more quality time with him and I am able to do a lot more in my day. It has been a week now since I had it done and I’ve not had to take a single painkiller since. Some of you may be thinking that these things are just “normal” but trust me I had long given up thinking I would ever see a day when I would not have take tablets to be able to get through a day or even be able to spend the day out or play with my cousins. For me these are great accomplishments. But my greatest achievement of all was to be able to pray standing for all my prayers. To be able to make ruku and sujood properly was just amazing! As I now don’t need to take my tablets so often during the day to control my pain I am hoping that this Ramadan will be easier than my last inshaAllah.
This one session of hijama has helped me more than the many appointments I have had with my consultants, physiotherapists and GP. Of course we do need to seek medical help but we shouldn’t rely on this alone. Alhamdulillah I am so glad I tried hijama now I can use this to help with my health conditions rather than relying on drugs and more drastic medical treatments.
Hijama is something that the prophet (saw) told us to do and having now experienced it myself I can truly see why he has told us to have hijama done. There are many hadith which show the great importance of having hijama done. I will share a few with you:
The prophet (saw) said: Indeed the best of remedies is cupping. (Bukhari)
The prophet (saw) said: Indeed in cupping there is a cure. (Muslim)
The prophet (saw) said: Cupping on an empty stomach is best. In it there is a cure and blessing… (Sunan ibn Majah)
I would definitely recommend everyone to have hijama done, whether you have a physical health condition, a mental health condition or you suffer from bad eyesight, poor memory or anything else. Hijama is a cure for all problems. Alhamdulillah.
If you live in London then I would definitely recommend having your hijama done from them, they have a brother to do hijama for any brothers who would like to have it done. The best thing is they travel to your home and I believe they also travel outside of London to clients. 

The Dua of Zakariyah 

(This is) a mention of the mercy of your Lord to His servant Zakariyah.
When he called to his Lord a private call (ie. Supplication)
He said, “My Lord, indeed my bones have weakened, and my head has filled with white and never have I been in my supplication to You, my Lord, unhappy (ie. disappointed).
And indeed, I fear the successors after me, and my wife is barren, so give me from Yourself an heir
Who will inherit me and inherit from the family of Yaqoob. And make him, my Lord, pleasing (to You).
(He was told), “O Zakariyah, indeed We give glad tidings to you of a boy whose name will be Yahya. We have not assigned to any before (this) name.”
Quran (19:2-7)
As I was studying Surah Maryam we studied the dua of Zakariyah and derived many lessons about making dua through the way he made dua.
The dua of the prophet Zakariyah is so amazing and we can learn so many things from him about how to make dua to Allah. Making dua to Allah is so important. So much so that the prophet (saw) said that dua is worship. Allah knows what is in our hearts so some wonder why it’s actually necessary to make dua to Allah. But it is necessary, it’s necessary because it makes our relationship with Allah strong. We should aquaint ourselves with talking to Him. 

Zakariyah made dua to Allah for a child when he spoke to Maryam about the food she had in her room. When she said Allah answers all duas, he immediately went to supplicate to Allah. 
So the first thing we can learn from his dua is that we need to have sincerity when making dua. He spoke to Allah directly and in private which shows us that making dua is a deep and personal relationship with Allah. So we should also personalise our relationship with Allah as there is no-one in between us and Allah. He did not start making dua loudly for other people to hear. He made dua silently and it shows that making dua silently is more beloved to Allah. This shows our sincerity and tawakkul that Allah can hear us and we trust Him to answer our dua. It prevents us from showing off by making others hear our dua and it allows us to keep our dua personal with us and Allah. 
The second thing we learn from his dua is that we need to have certainty in the presence of Allah that He will answer our duas. In his dua he mentions both his internal weakness and external weakness. He says to Allah that You know everything about me, inside and out. We know that Zakariyah is a very old man and his wife is unable to have children so then why would he ask for a child? Why doesn’t he just ask for another prophet to come? Wouldn’t that be more reasonable? But what we learn is that Zakariyah knows that Allah is generous so we should ask for more and He will grant it. Through this we also Learn good adab when making dua, we should be confident in our dua and not despair. He says that Allah has never disappointed him in answering his dua. So we should also have that certainty that Allah will always answer our duas. 
The third thing we learn is that we need to mention our complete dependence on Allah. That we cannot do anything without the help of Allah. The fourth thing we learn is that we should call like we really need Him. We shouldn’t feel like our dua is in any way helping Allah. Allah doesn’t need our duas, we need Him. The duas are for our benefit not for His. The more we make dua the more we should humble ourselves. Being arrogant while making dua will not benefit us at all, we can’t do anything without the help of Allah so how can we be arrogant? Allah even tells us to make dua to Him. We call out to Him, completely dependant on Him and He will respond to our call. 
And your Lord says, “Call upon me and I will respond to you.” Quran (40:60)
When we look at the dua of Zakariyah, it’s amazing that he spends so long just praising Allah. Saying how he is completely depending on His Lord to grant his dua. He shows how he is the one in need of Allah that without the help of Allah there is no way that he will be able to have a child.
The last thing we learn from his dua is that we should have good expectations of Allah. When we make dua we should be confident that Allah will answer our duas. We should never think that even though I’ve made dua to Allah, He won’t answer it or grant me what I am asking for. Zakariyah at this time was really old, in his nineties, but he still asked for a child with confidence that Allah will give it to him. We learn that straight away he is granted a child, and Allah even honours him by naming the child a name that has never been given before. We should never give up hope in our duas being answered.
The prophet (saw) said: you will be responded to as long as you are not hasty, meaning that (a person) says, “I have prayed and prayed and prayer has not been answered” Bukhari 
We should be determined in our duas being answered because Allah can do whatever He wills, nothing is difficult for Him. 
The prophet (saw) said: When one of you makes dua then let him be firm and determined in his dua and let him not say, “O Allah if you will then please forgive me” for there is no-one who can force Allah to do nothing. Bukhari 
So when we make dua we should keep these things in mind as the dua of Zakariyah was so special to Allah that He honoured Zakariyah by teaching us all this dua by putting it in the Quran. We can extract so many lessons from his dua and we should utilise them to maximise our duas. So by doing these things we can ensure our duas are answered.