Haramadan 3: Fasting & Other Health Hazards

If you’re in Southern California and free tomorrow afternoon, I urge you to attend the Free Raif rally, presented by CFI-L.A. in conjunction with Amnesty InternationalMuslims for Progressive ValuesPEN Center USA, and the Los Angeles Press Club. More information can be found on the CFI website and on Facebook.

One of the health hazards associated with living under Saudi Wahhabi-style Islam is a significant risk to expressing any views that might be interpreted to be offensive or irreverent. Another health hazard, one that can be found in nearly every flavor of Islam, is the fasting observed by many during this time of the lunar year.

The case of blogger Raif Badawi, the verdict of which was recently upheld by the Saudi Supreme Court, is currently gaining support internationally and was even featured at recent U2 concerts.

I was personally quite surprised, since I cynically expected Bono to land on the side of the overapologetic, racism-of-lowered-expectations white liberals, like the kind actually defending the brutality. I’m glad to be wrong, since the awareness-raising for #FreeRaif needs all the help it can get. It’s also heartening to see Muslims speaking up and out against the Saudis’ inhumane, unjust punishments for speech.

Unlike the potential to be flogged to the point of near-death, fasting is a hazard with which most rather than a few people living in Muslim-dominated areas and from Muslim backgrounds must contend. Countries like Pakistan have laws and are full of social pressures that prevent even non-Muslims from going about their normal daily eating and drinking, although there is a growing swell of Muslim voices opposed to imposing such practices of their religion on the unwilling. In the most extreme of cases, i.e. areas ruled by ISIS/ISIL, eating and drinking during the day is a capital offense.

There is a tendency among Muslims to emphasize the notion that fasting has been scientifically proven to be beneficial, and among well-meaning never-Muslims to agree to this premise without much question. Muslim doctors will sometimes even use woo-woo buzzwords like “toxins” to make their case. Whatever the claims of the already-converted may be, studies touting the longevity-enhancing effects of caloric deprivation are hardly proof that Islamic-style fasting of the kind practiced in Ramadan is a good idea for anyone, especially not in the summer. While other religious traditions allow for water and sometimes even moderate amounts of certain kinds of foods during their fasting periods, the kind promoted by Muhammad allows for no hydration of any kind. By any stretch of the science or the imagination, there is absolutely no health benefit to be had by depriving oneself of water.

A study conducted back in 2003 failed to detect any long-term adverse health effects resulting from the dehydration caused by the Ramadan fasts. By its authors’ own admission, however, that study was a beginning towards understanding the health effects of Islamic fasting, not an end.

This isn’t to suggest that policies banning fasting, as exist in some schools in England and some parts of China. Forcing someone to eat can be traumatic and harmful to them and is just as wrong as forcing them to not eat and drink. Rather, fasting should be approached realistically rather than dogmatically, its good and ill effects studied without apologetics. Attributing nothing but health benefits to and brooking no evidence-based criticism of a medically-dubious practice promoted (if not started) by a man who lived just under 1500 years ago is ludicrous.

Haramadan 3: Fasting & Other Health Hazards

3 thoughts on “Haramadan 3: Fasting & Other Health Hazards

  1. 1

    It’s not fasting … it’s a month of alternating not eating or drinking all day followed by a huge meal at sundown to make up for the deprivation and a plowman’s breakfast just before sunrise to tide them over.

    1. 1.1

      @Tsu Dho Nimh: so you don’t eat or drink for a period of time, possibly 16+ hours if you are at a high latitude in the northern hemisphere. that sounds like a fast to me (and would count for medical purposes, where it looks to be about 8-10 hours without eating/drinking).
      what is your cut-off? eating anything in a given day?

      not on that topic, a question i have been wondering; what do you do if you are in an area where the sun doesn’t set? equally, is it considered cheating to book a month long holiday to somewhere really south, like Dunedin NZ, or Rio Grande in Argentina? (though i suppose you are expected to spend the time with family/community).

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