Updated: May 1
This year, Ramadhan falls during a global pandemic.
This time of year, mosques are usually at its busiest. They are bustling with activity as people perform their ibadah, gather for iftar parties, congregate for prayers and classes. But now, for many mosques around the world, mosques remain closed and social distancing and self-isolation measures are put in place to reduce the spread of Covid-19. As a result, this year Ramadhan will feel very different for a lot of Muslims around the world as families are separated.
But at a time where optimal health is required - how can we know what are the health implications of observing Ramadhan during a viral outbreak? Can fasting affect our chances of contracting the virus?
On the contrary, fasting is believed to be beneficial to the body in a number of ways, including through the effect it has on boosting our immune systems. Our ancestors may have recognised this. Fasting is a dated tradition in many religions. There is also evidence that the ancient Egyptians fasted for long periods to purge their bodies of ailments and disease.
In modern times, studies have shown that fasting can actually have beneficial effects on the immune system by reducing the amount of general inflammation in our bodies.
Fasting is thought to put the body into an "energy conservation mode" due to the lack of nutrients coming in. In an effort to save energy, the body recycles many of its old or damaged immune cells, which later promotes the generation of new, healthier immune cells when the fasting period ends. These new cells are quicker and more efficient at fighting infections so overall immunity improves.
It is important to stress that the Muslim faith only expects fasting from those who are healthy enough to do so, and fasting must not be used simply as a way to boost your immune system.
As this will be our first Ramadan during a coronavirus pandemic, it is impossible to know whether fasting may offer some level of protection against getting the illness itself and, although it is not beyond the realms of possibility, it is important to stick to the things that we do know work: social distancing, hand-washing, hygiene and self-isolation.
[Reference: Al Jazeera]