Fasting in Ramadhan is the abstinence from food, drink and sexual activity from dawn to sunset. Since the month is lunar it shifts through the solar year, losing approximately ten days each year. As a result of this, the lunar month of Ramadhan will occur in every season of the year. The fast is a Qur’anic injunction and the sick, travellers, elderly, pregnant, breastfeeders and those menstruating do not have to fast. A Qur’anic injunction is a direct order of Allah, so obeying the order not to fast, if you are included in those exempt from fasting, is also an act of worship.
In northern Europe when Ramadhan is in the summer months, there are around 19 hours between dawn and sunset, hence paying attention to the ease granted by Allah when He commanded the fast is of utter importance. The point of the fast is not to impose hardship upon ourselves but to worship The Lord of the Worlds.
From the perspective of Greco-Arab medicine – which is also Classical Traditional Western Herbalism – fasting is drying and cooling in nature. The lack of drink and the natural increase in urination due to the detoxification that fasting triggers, dry the body, which will have the effect of reducing the flexibility of our metabolic responses. Simply put, this means that our body will have a much lower stress threshold during the month-long fast. Dehydration is a real danger during the fast if you do not know what you are doing (Dealing with Thirst in Ramadhan and Summer). Since the body will conserve its energy and turn its innate metabolic heat inwards as it detoxifies and rebuilds, our metabolisms will naturally slow down.
This is the cooling effect of fasting. Dry and Cold are the attributes of the Element Earth so the temper and nature of fasting are in harmony with the energetic patterns of Earth, which is expressed seasonally as Autumn and in personality types as Melancholic. This means that when we are healthy, fasting will cause us to increase in melancholic attributes. The melancholic qualities of silence, reflection, frugality, foresight, preparation and self-examination become magnified. The increase of these qualities makes worship easier and should make it more plentiful. When we deviate from the magnification of these qualities it usually is a sign of illness, whether that illness be social, physical or psychological. The habit of people gathering to stuff themselves at fast-break, through the night until dawn is a certain sign of social and psychological or spiritual illness and will certainly cause physical ones.
How the Fast Affects Different Bio-Types
- Healthy sanguines – the hot/moist type – have the strongest digestion and love to eat. Since they generally have large energetic reserves, they find the fast easy, though it causes strong detoxification at the beginning because of their excesses. To cut down on the headaches at the beginning of the fast they should ensure that they drink adequate amounts of plain unadulterated water and simplify their diets up to a month before the fast. During the fast, they should simplify their food to allow detoxification to occur. Since all types are cooled by the fast, a tea made of warming spices should be drunk to warm the body up and strengthen the digestion. You can try my Digestive Energiser. However, do remember that sanguines tend to need less warming than the other types.
- Healthy cholerics – the hot/dry type – have the 2nd strongest digestion and ravenous appetites. Since they generally have low energetic reserves, they find the fast hardest, it really cools them down. This type is dry, so drinking is very important, plain water is essential, however, this type also needs to ensure that they get nutritious, easy-to-digest drinks. They need to guard against constipation and may experience some eruptive inflammatory conditions at the beginning of the fast. They should drink water, stay hydrated and let the detoxification continue. As long as they keep their bowels free and drink sufficient amounts, things should correct themselves. If they are constipated they should try eating a fair amount of fruit and increasing their water intake. If constipation continues, they can try my Lower Bowel Tonic after breaking the fast, this should resolve things within a couple of days.
- Healthy melancholics – the cold/dry type – have the stronger of the weak digestion of the cold types. They have low energetic reserves and find fasting difficult. The need to hydrate and to warm themselves up with warming spices. Foods for this type in Ramadhan should primarily be soups and porridges with warming spices. Constipation is a real danger for this type, they should follow the advice of the cholerics, but they should have warming spices with their fruit. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, then try the Lower Bowel Tonic.
- Healthy phlegmatics – the cold/wet type – have the weakest of all the digestions and will tend to retain water, they can actually put on weight during Ramadhan due to water retention. They have lots of energetic reserves and moderate appetites, making fasting easy for them. They need easy-to-digest soups, stews and porridges, with plenty of digestive support. They need to drink but their thirst tends to be more moderate than that of the other types. Digestive Energiser is specific for this type.
Overall fasting will detoxify, strengthen digestion and promote tissue repair. It will tire and drain you, so you need nutritious food that is easy to digest. And gets lots of rest during the long days of summer.