Imam Khalid Latif is blogging his reflections during the month of Ramadan, featured daily on HuffPost Religion. For a complete record of his previous posts, click over to the Islamic Center at New York University or visit his author page, and to follow along with the rest of his reflections, sign up for an author e-mail alert above, visit his Facebook page or follow him on Twitter.
Many of the people that I saw last night at our Islamic Center's iftar dinner and night prayer seemed pretty tired. This could be because they have been fasting for almost two weeks. It could also be because it was Monday. Most probably it was because of both.
In some parts of the world, one's entire schedule changes during Ramadan to accommodate the late nights and the fasting during they day. In the United States, that doesn't really happen. Muslims still get up and go to work, school, and perform other tasks and responsibilities that we would be expected to do, whether we are fasting or not. A busy work day after a week and a half of not eating or drinking during daylight hours can start to take its toll, especially if we aren't taking care of our bodies in the process.
Eat of the good things which We have provided for you ~ The Holy Quran, (2:173)
As individuals, our physical, spiritual and emotional well-being all have an impact on one another. We forget this at times and then stop thinking about the importance of fueling ourselves with good quality food and drink. Our bodies then respond to what we are putting into them, we find ourselves tired and overwhelmed, and our emotions and spirit indirectly get impacted.
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to Montreal and went for a late-night walk. As we walked hand-in-hand, she began to tell me about how happy she was and what a good time she was having and I responded by saying, "We have to go in there right now," and proceeded to take her into a Coldstone ice cream store that I spotted across the street.
I have a deep, growing love for milkshakes. One in particular that my heart is quite firmly attached to is called Cake-n-Shake and is sold at Coldstone. When we got into the store, I had to explain to the young man working behind the counter how to make it. He took about 6 scoops of a cake batter ice cream, threw in a few pieces of actual yellow cake, added in some milk, and proceeded to make one of the best drinks ever made. I drank to my heart's content. So good. Alhamdulillah.
That night, I was pretty restless in my sleep and when my wife woke me up to pray our Fajr prayer at dawn, I was really groggy. My body felt very heavy and as if it had gotten no rest, I wasn't very alert in my prayer and yawned a few times, and overall wasn't very present during my prayer. All because of a milkshake that I drank right before I went to bed very late.
Whether you are fasting or not, there are few things that we all can be more mindful of:
"And We made your sleep a means for rest" ~ The Holy Quran, (78:9)
When was the last time you got a good night's sleep? Especially during Ramadan? Most of us have really poor sleeping habits. This can lead to a lot of issues, especially when fasting. Aside from being cranky and not fun to be around, if you aren't sleeping enough or properly, you may start to develop a high level of fatigue. Throughout the day you'll feel sleepy and your body might experience unwanted weight loss or weight gain. Sleep deprivation can also lead to depression, headaches and body aches, increased stress and blood pressure, and lot of other things.
Our bodies learn behavior and to remedy some of this we can start by sticking to a specific schedule so that our bodies know when it's time to sleep and when it's time to wake up. Making sure you sleep in the same place is important and developing a bedtime ritual is also helpful as you start unwind so that your body knows its time to go into sleep mode. Something that isn't stimulating your mind to such an extant that it keeps going while you are sleeping. In our tradition, we find numerous narrations that indicate the Prophet Muhammad adopted regular practices before going to sleep, and throughout the day he was able to do a lot, whether he was fasting or not.
Exercising daily can be helpful as well for our sleep in specific, as well as for other things, and it's important to exercise at your own pace. Do what feels right for you, but do it regularly. You'll see a gradual change that is more healthy than change that is solicited through extreme measures. Avoiding caffeine anytime after the late afternoon is also helpful for a good night's rest.
Water hydration is really important, and during Ramadan especially this becomes one of the main reasons people get tired and fatigued. When I played football, my coaches would tell us that we would know that we were hydrated if our urine was clear when we went to the bathroom. (They actually used different words but I'll let you assume for yourselves.) If you find that your urine is dark or that you aren't going to the bathroom so much, there is a good chance you aren't drinking enough water. You might be able to get away with it for a day, but after a month, you are going to potentially cause some serious damage to your body. If you are fasting, try to drink a lot of water in the evening time. For those who go to the mosque in the evening, take a water bottle with you to sip on during breaks in the prayer.
A few other things to be mindful of:
- Make sure you eat something for the suhoor meal prior to dawn on days you fast and breakfast in the morning on days you are not fasting. It's important for purposes of energy as well as getting your metabolism going. That meal shouldn't be heavy, fatty, and gross but should be mostly complex carbs, protein, vegetables, fruits and lots of water.
- Try to break your fast on something that is sensible. In much of the world, the temperatures are quite high these days and your body is going to need fluids. This is where following the recommended practice of the Prophet and eating dates and drinking water is important.
- Make sure the meal that you eat after you've broken your fast is sensible as well. Don't overeat, make sure you drink more water, and try to avoid fatty, greasy foods. If not for your own sake, then at least for the person who is going to be standing next to you during prayer. As much as we would love to know what you ate for dinner, we'd rather you tell us then having us find out from you burping in our face.
- Give your body some exercise in the evening if possible, even if it's just taking a walk for 10 minutes or so.
Our bodies have rights over us and it's important that we take care of them. Be mindful of how you are treating yourself. Start from today and make sure you are doing what you can to be healthy -- it'll definitely help you reach your potential best.
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