Fasting, what is it? For Muslims, who are most notorious for fasting during the holy month of Ramadhan, fasting is abstention from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk (Fajr to Maghrib). But why is it done, are they just starving themselves for no reason.

The first mention of fasting in Islam is found in the 2nd surah in the holy book, The Qur’an, Surah Al-Baqarah – translated as The Cow, due to its main delivered story, but that is a discussion for another day.

"O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may develop Taqwah ( God-consciousness)." (2:183)

It is made clear that, to Muslims, fasting is an obligation that is sent upon for an important spiritual benefit. This is called Taqwah. Taqwah derives from the Arabic verb waqã, which literally means to preserve, protect, safeguard or shield; thus, fasting acts as shield from evil that subsequently brings Muslims closer to Allah (God).

However, this action is not only beneficial to Muslims alone, but it also has health benefits for people of all background – which brings us to another form of non-religious fasting, intermittent fasting which has become popular due to the influence of fitness influencers on social media platforms.

Mark Mattson, professor of neuroscience at John Hopkins University, studied this phenomenon for 50 years (before the existence of self-proclaimed diet gurus on TikTok).    He made it clear that this “metabolic switch” impacts both the brain and the heart.

“Many things happen during intermittent fasting that can protect organs against chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, age-related neurodegenerative disorders, even inflammatory bowel disease and many cancers,” he has stated.

One of the many groups that will greatly reap the benefits of fasting are diabetes patients. Research available has proved that the practice of intermittent fasting, under doctor supervision, has benefitted patients to the point of reversing their need for insulin therapy.

It must be made clear that, although the benefits are countless, fasting must be approached carefully in order to avoid side effects – especially for those who have Type 1 diabetes and those who have encountered past eating disorders. Many Muslims often fast a few days in preparation for observing the month of Ramadhan to ensure ease during this holy month.