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Fasting from dawn to sunset requires self-control, patience, steadfastness, and faith. Muslims observe Ramadan because it is an essential pillar of their faith. The holy month of Ramadan is meant to draw Muslims closer to God through spiritual reflection, being more generous in terms of giving charity, and engaging in good deeds.
Who Is Eligible to Fast Ramadan?
While fasting is mandated for all Muslims, there is an exception to the rule. Children, women who are pregnant, women who are menstruating, the elderly, the ill, and those who are traveling do not need to fast but rather make up the fasts at a later time when they are able to. However, if they will not be able to make up missed fasts (due to old age or chronic illness that is unlikely to improve), they should pay fidya (religious donations) to the needy.
Fasting During Ramadan & Eating Disorders
Within the Muslim community as a whole, the notion that the ill are exempted from fasting is limited to those who are “physically” ill. By default, when one hears of illness, they are automatically led to think of a physical ailment such as cancer or diabetes. However, we must recognize that mental illnesses such as eating disorders also fall in the realm of illnesses, and thus, those who suffer from eating disorders are also believed to be exempted from fasting.
People with eating disorders use disordered eating behavior as a way to cope with difficult situations or feelings. It is important to remember that eating disorders are not all about food itself, but about feelings. The most common types of eating disorders include anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge-eating disorder, and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder.
|More on eating disorders|
• Ramadan Triggers My Eating Disorder (Read full article)
• Anorexia & Ramadan: A Muslim Convert’s Recovery Journey (Read full article)
• Hijab Doesn’t Protect Against Eating Disorders (Read full article)
The exact cause of eating disorders is usually unknown, as there are various factors at play that can be developed over time. It can either be genetics or biology as certain people may have genes that increase their risk of developing eating disorders. Biological factors, such as changes in brain chemicals, may play a role in eating disorders. The other could be psychological and emotional health; people with eating disorders may have psychological and emotional problems that contribute to the disorder. They may have low self-esteem, perfectionism, impulsive behavior, and troubled relationships.
How to Navigate through Ramadan With Eating Disorders
Navigating your way through Ramadan while struggling with an eating disorder is not easy. It can lead to severe depression and anxiety during this Holy month making it harder to concentrate on other routine tasks, it also hinders growth and development in people of all age groups. Some people excessively gain weight, which leads to self-loathing and hating one’s body image. It negatively impacts a person’s social life and relationships due to a severe lack of confidence and the urge to constantly doubt one’s self. Even day-to-day activities become increasingly challenging and daily work, office, or school tasks seem daunting.
Having a difficult relationship with food can be very overwhelming, especially during Ramadan. In many ways, fasting can contribute to slipping back into dangerous eating habits, which creates a significant threat to one’s health. In this case, consulting with a medical professional on whether or not fasting is beneficial with respect to a personal eating disorder is highly recommended.
Besides this, eating together at the dining table at iftar and suhoor also helps cope with the disorder. Friends and family must support and instill the habit of viewing and appreciating all body shapes, sizes and types. The unhealthy obsession with skinny bodies and the diet culture is extremely dangerous, and it is every Muslim’s responsibility to reach out with compassion in order to encourage the person to seek treatment.
As Muslims, we believe that our trials and tribulations are from God and by accepting His Divine plan, we must also accept that religion is meant to bring us closer to our Creator. Fasting is not a means to an end. There are multiple avenues, during Ramadan and otherwise, that can bring you closer to your faith. Participating in acts of goodness, praying, seeking help, and taking care of your mental health is always considered a form of practicing one’s faith.
One should never feel any less of a Muslim if they are unable to fast, but rather acknowledge that Islam is meant to make our lives easier and not more difficult. Strengthening one’s relationship with God during the month of Ramadan means working towards recovery by asking God for His love and guidance through testing and turbulent times.