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…
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.