Ramadan is a deeply spiritual time of year for Muslims. It’s a time for deep reflection and introspection, a chance to strengthen our connection with God and a time to think of the less fortunate. There’s no doubt that from a spiritual perspective, Ramadan brings with it great ease, blessings and peace of mind.
But fasting for long periods of time (up to 20 hours per day in some parts of the world) can take some adjusting for the body. It’s essential to take precautions to maintain good health throughout the month and to ensure that you have the energy you need to spend in worship.
This year, with coronavirus affecting Muslims in all corners of the world, it is more important than ever to take care of your body. It’s vital that we’re prepared to build up our energy, strength and immunity to ensure that we have the health needed to take maximum benefit from the holy month.
Let’s talk food
This Ramadan, with social distancing measures being implemented in large parts of the world and a global situation which is changing daily, it’s important to plan in advance the types of foods needed for Ramadan and to purchase them in the safest way possible.
It’s a good idea to make a list with meal plans for each week during Ramadan, especially if you’re bulk-buying during the crisis. We’ll also be far more likely to make healthier food choices by planning ahead. Hunger paired with grocery shopping – albeit online – is a recipe for disaster!
Now is a time we should all be thinking about strengthening our immune systems. Maintain a balanced diet comprising of carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats, fibre and essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us need to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat whilst reducing salt, sugar and fried foods but do speak to your doctor before making any significant changes.
To keep up your strength whilst fasting eat slow-release carbohydrates such as oats, wholegrain rice and wholemeal bread. These are particularly good food options for suhur and will help to keep us full and energised throughout the day. Don’t forget to include some of the sunnah food and drink into your diet including water, dates, honey and milk.
Let’s keep moving
The coronavirus pandemic has almost certainly seen a disruption to our daily routines which may mean we are getting less exercise. For healthy people, Ramadan should not be an added excuse to ditch exercise entirely as it brings ample health benefits.
It’s sensible to build up your levels of exercise gradually throughout the month. A brisk walk around your area before iftar – keeping a safe distance from others – might be a good idea. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would walk at a swift pace and this is a great example to follow. You could even tie this into listening to Qur’an or to an Islamic talk if you want to be really productive!
For those who prefer to stay indoors, there are some great home workouts you can find online. Getting yourself moving doesn’t necessarily require any equipment; the important thing is to get started and to ensure you make exercise a part of your daily Ramadan routine. If you find it too difficult to exercise whilst fasting try exercising be a couple of hours after you open your fast.
Seek advice if you are unwell
Sadly, many Muslims across the world may be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 this Ramadan. It’s therefore essential that we understand the rulings around exemption from fasting. For example, it may be that you have mild symptoms but the body’s immune system is still fighting the infection and requires energy to do so.
The Qur’an states, “Whoever is ill or on a journey, then the prescribed period should be made up by days later. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship…” (Qur’an, 2:184-5).
Consult a local scholar if you are unsure about whether or not you are exempt from fasting but as a general guide you may be excused if you reasonably fear that the act of fasting will increase your sickness or slow your recovery. If you’re unable to fast due to illness, you must make up these fasts when you are fully recovered.
Allah has also accounted for those with longer-term health conditions who are not able to make up missed fasts by requiring that they pay fidya, which is money given to the poor for each fast missed in Ramadan. The amount to pay is the local value of 2kg of wheat per missed fast. Calculate and pay your fidya here.
Please support our Ramadan Appeal. Your generosity will help us come together as one community and save lives together. Read more about Ramadan 2020 with Islamic Relief here.