Saturday, 13 July 2013

How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Smell Your Breath!

Muhammad (peace be upon him) once said there was nothing sweeter to God than the breath of a fasting personThis lovely approach acknowledges the beauty of fasting and the value of doing something purely for God. For those living with the cloud of Ramadan breath however, I’m not sure they’d always have such a romantic view! So here’s the lowdown, for both newbie Muslims and non-muslims alike, on what really happens when you fast:

  • You might notice your muslim friends being a little distant with you over the next month. Perhaps they lean away from you when you go in for a hug, tilt back in their chair while they chat to you or cover their mouths as if they’re muttering something under their breath. Don’t fret though, it’s not a sign that they don’t want to be with you. They’re actually saving you from one of the more unsavoury aspects of forgoing food for an extended period of time – Ramadan Breath! 

  • You find yourself longing to freshen up your breath in some way. It’s not all bad news though. During the daily prayers, the washing up process includes washing your mouth out with water. After hours without water, it’s oh-so-tempting to gulp it down as you swoosh it around. “Wait! Surely that’s torture!” (I hear you cry). Surprisingly, it’s actually an incredible relief! It means that five times a day, you’re able to rinse your mouth thoroughly with cool water and feel deliciously refreshed. In addition, I usually brush my teeth once or twice during the day (without paste) although some Muslims choose to avoid brushing while fasting as well so check out a qualified scholar if you're a bit iffy about this one. You can read more about Ramadan and water in: Wobble Belly Woes!

  • For most of the year, constant grazing means that my tummy never gets the break it deserves. During a fast however, all that energy can be put to good use in other parts of the body: having a thorough clear out, tackling rogue bacteria, and using up some of the fats that usually congregate around the middle. Instead of your body faffing around digesting food all day the stomach can put its feet up for the day and have a well-earned rest.

  • At least for the first half of Ramadan, you might experience the rather conspicuous auditory aspect of tummy rumbling. This usually coincides with when lunch should be. Sometimes it’s like the MGM lion is broadcasting from inside my stomach. The digestive system switches over to ‘fast mode’ after about eight hours and so it’s probably around that time stamp that you’ll experience the most tummy rumbles. As suhoor (the pre-fast meal) is so early in the Summer, this means this will probably clash with lunch time. Eventually though the tummy stops growling, either as the day goes on or the month progresses. I think it gets the hint that no food is coming no matter how much noise it makes! It’s a good example of mind over matter.  

  • An empty stomach often results in a new past time, namely daydreaming about what you’ll be eating for dinner.  Despite these culinary obsessions, I’ve found my appetite actually decreases. By the time dinner comes round, I eat much smaller portions than usual. I’ve realized all too often that if you eat excessively, you really feel it afterwards. You go from feeling light & springy to suddenly being unable to budge, like a python that’s just eaten a gazelle! I can almost hear the cries of my stomach yelping ‘nooooooooo!’ when I overeat at iftar. Fasting is a great way of decreasing portion sizes easily so that you consume the amount you need rather than the quantity you want. There’s nothing worse than feeling like a giant slug slouching on the sofa after eating! 

  • I love the awareness of the body which comes with Ramadan. You become very aware of what you should be eating or drinking because the body dictates what it needs and you follow its lead, rather than adhering to the habits or addictions we've fallen into over the year. Fasting noticeably promotes the desire for healthy foods. The body wants nourishment and so you find yourself craving more fruits and vegetables rather than processed food. Yes, there are random cravings that ingratiate their way in (usually gulab jamun and nutella) but generally speaking, if you listen to your body, you’ll be hankering after healthier meals and indulging in anything vaguely green-hued. For this reason, I always end Ramadan feeling understandably lighter and in good health. 

  • With enhanced awareness of your own physicality and limitations, comes increased reliance on God for patience, self-control, and calm. Consequently this makes you more aware of the importance of prayer and Muslims focus on their daily prayers, either aiming to be more punctual with their timing, to add more prayers alongside the obligatory ones, or follow them up with reading sections of the Qur'an.

★  ★  ★

What challenge would you find most demanding? 
What unexpected ups and down do you experience when you fast? 

Link of the Day 

A useful article on the NHS website describing the physical process of fasting and the health benefits of fasting when it's done correctly: Fasting and your Health


  1. The only thing that I don't like about Ramadan is the Headaches! I can cope with feeling hungry and thirsty but I can't cope if I get a big headache! I was very bad the first day of Ramadan but so far after the suggestion from friends to drink extra water I have been OK.

    1. Thankfully I've only had one evening where I had a headache and I was able to lie down until iftar time. I drink a lot of water (far more than I usually do) and that seems to do the trick. InshAllah we'll escape headaches or at least we able to cope with them : )

  2. This made me smile. :)

    Like Karima said, headaches can be a real bummer during Ramadan. But yes, drinking loads of water at Suhoor helps.


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