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Asking the Clergy: How does fasting during Ramadan benefit you physically, spiritually?

The ninth and most important month of the Islamic lunar calendar continues through June 4.

From left, Mahmood Kauser of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community,

From left, Mahmood Kauser of Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Isma H. Chaudhry of the Islamic Center of Long Island,  and Mufti Mohammad Farhan of the Children of Adam Muslim youth organization. Photo Credit: Mahmood Kauser; Islamic Center of Long Island

Ramadan, the ninth and most important month of the Islamic lunar calendar, continues through June 4. Observing Ramadan, which commemorates God’s revealing of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad, is one of the Five Pillars of Islam — the five duties obligatory for every Muslim. This week’s clergy discuss the positive effects of Ramadan’s ancient traditions.

Mahmood Kauser

Regional imam, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, with mosques in Amityville, Queens and Brooklyn

Fasting in the month of Ramadan helps detoxify our systems; it's a practice that started more than 1,400 years ago. One result is ketosis, which helps burn stored fat for energy. Other results include managing your blood sugar and cutting down on insulin resistance.

Moderation is the key ingredient presented by the teachings of Islam. That is why more than 1.3 billion Muslims around the world observe fasting every year for a single month. This, of course, excludes the young, the old, the sick and travelers.

The benefits in spirituality are far greater. To achieve true salvation, we must look at sin with the same disdain as we look at physical harm. Backbiting would cease to exist if we all understood it to have the same harm as putting our hands in a burning flame of fire. In the same way, fasting soothes our soul and repairs it just as exercise does for our bodies. Lastly, fasting is practiced in every major religion by nearly every religious figure including Moses, Abraham, Jesus, Buddha and, of course, the founder of Islam, Muhammad (Peace be upon them all).

Isma H. Chaudhry

Board of trustees chair, Islamic Center of Long Island, Westbury

Fasting is a prophetic tradition and has been prescribed to all Abrahamic and non-Abrahamic traditions. In the Islamic tradition, the month of Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, is considered a month of blessings, charity, prayer and submission to God.

Muslims every year during the month of Ramadan fast daily from dawn to dusk, abstaining from food, drink, and unethical and immoral behaviors. The fundamental aspect of fasting is to focus not on extravagance and self-indulgence but on the needs of the less fortunate and underprivileged around the world. It is time to transform, to reassess and to reprioritize our life with compassion, morals, ethics and humanity. As humans we consciously or subconsciously retain certain habits and behaviors, which take our focus away from humanity and spirituality.

This month we focus intensely on God consciousness, charity, spirituality, prayer and re-establishing ethical bearings and our moral compass with the hope that the spirit of Ramadan with stay with us for the whole year. The aspiration is not just to stay hungry, but to be very conscious of our responsibilities toward humanity, and cognizant of our spiritual and religious obligations. These attributes enhance spirituality by instilling humility and modesty.

Besides the spiritual recompenses, medical research has proved that intermittent fasting has many health benefits, such as boosting metabolism, detoxifying and establishing hormonal balance.

Mufti Mohammad Farhan

Executive director, Islamic Center of Long Island in Westbury and president of Children of Adam Muslim youth organization

Ramadan, the holy month when Muslims fast daily from early dawn until sunset, is the period of spiritual reflection through extra prayer and recitation of the Holy Quran.

The main reason for fasting is to develop self-discipline and piety. That’s why Muslims are to abstain from all sorts of physical, mental and spiritual sins. Almighty God mentioned in the Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 183: “O you who believe. Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you that you may obtain self-restraint.”

Fasting during Ramadan purifies the actions and thoughts of Muslims. After sunset, the fast is broken. Muslims invite their relative and friends for iftar meals. This makes community friendships stronger.

Fasting makes one aware of many bounties of Almighty God, which we take for granted. Hunger and thirst remind a fasting person about the poor and destitute and increases sympathy and generosity for the less fortunate.

DO YOU HAVE QUESTIONS you’d like Newsday to ask the clergy? Email them to LILife@newsday.com. Find more LI Life stories at newsday.com/LILife.

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