Ramadan and Community Health
By Dr. Muhammad Karim Beebani
Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the five pillars of Islam enjoined upon Muslims by almighty Allah as mentioned in verse 183 of chapter 2: "O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may learn self restraint."
Reduced Crime and Higher Morale
The enormous impact of Ramadan on a Muslim society is seen from the fact that as compared to the other months, the number of all sorts of crimes and the magnitude of corruption, indecency, vicious behaviour and immoral acts are all reduced markedly. The rate of crimes in Muslim societies is already lower than other societies and it declines even more in the holy month of Ramadan.
Violence and crime impose a great burden on the health budget of any country. As a matter of fact in most developed countries they supersede the expenditure and agony caused even by the road traffic accidents. In a Muslim country like Saudi Arabia the crime rate is already much lower than other countries and it becomes minimal in the month of Ramadan.
Fasting is not just the act of refraining from food and water; rather it is a devotion to fulfill the religious duties as well as to behave in a manner which is harmless to others, so that even if someone incites a person to quarrel, he has to pacify him by acting upon this saying of the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), "Fasting is a shield or protection from the fire and from committing sins, if one of you is fasting, he should avoid quarrelling and if somebody should fight or quarrel with him he should say I am fasting."
In another Hadith, Allah's Apostle says, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and evil actions, Allah is not in need of his leaving food and drink."
Although such good teachings of Islam are not confined to the month of Ramadan alone, yet they are best observed in this month. Hence, one can notice a great fall in the crime rate, violence, loss of working days due to offensive injuries and a great reduction in the cost of medico-legal expenditure which has a pronounced effect on the health budget of a given community.
There is no doubt in saying that the number of offensive injuries and trauma cases reported to the emergency rooms in a Muslim country is far less in the month of Ramadan than in any other month. Ramadan, in other words, is a training period for the Muslims in which the foundations of a subtle character are laid whose gains can also be seen round the year and this has a positive effect on the morale of the whole society.
Happiness and Reduced Stress
Now, to come to another blessedness of Ramadan. In today's stressful time when every third person is suffering from a psychological problem even though it might be a mild depression, the advent of Ramadan means an era of happiness and felicity for all Muslims.
Social insecurity is the root cause of today's psychological chaos and bereavement. Ramadan, in contrast, is a month of optimum social interaction and familiarization with each other. Mosques are thronged with worshippers, people invite intimate friends to iftar, shopping centers are packed with crowds and Eid offers a rainbow of joyous moments, although the real happiness which the believers derive comes from the fulfillment of Allah's order about which He says that fasting is for Him alone and He will pay its reward.
Ramadan has its own culture, a glimpse of which can be seen at Iftar when the whole family joins together to dine. Allah's apostle (pbuh) says, "There are two pleasures for the fasting person: one, at the time of breaking his fast, and the other at the time when he will meet his Lord. Then he will be pleased because of his fasting."
Not surprisingly, due to the decreased stress the human body's steroid level, which is raised in stress and anxiety, has been found to be decreased among Muslims in the month of Ramadan.
Cleanliness is the hallmark of Islamic virtues. Although according to Islamic teachings, a good Muslim offering his prayers regularly is supposed to be neat and tidy, in the month of Ramadan personal cleanliness among the Muslims reaches its peak. I need not mention that a high level of cleanliness in the days of Ramadan will deter infections. The zeal to offer prayers in Ramadan continues in other days as well, more and more people form the habit of offering prayers regularly, which by itself is a spiritual and health package for Muslims.