By: Dr. Amir Khan
This year, the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan will be like no other; it will occur in the middle of a global pandemic.
Ramadan, which began on the evening of April 23, will see a month-long period of fasting, worship and devotion to Allah. It commemorates the Quran being first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims who are fit enough to do so are expected to fast (not eat or drink fluids at all) between the hours of sunrise and sunset for four weeks. As well as being a month of reflection, Ramadan traditionally brings people together in the evening for food and prayer.
Mosques around the world are usually at their busiest during this month, but many now remain closed and social distancing and self-isolation to prevent the spread of coronavirus have become mandatory in many countries. As a result, this year Ramadan will feel very different for a lot of Muslims around the world as families are separated.
But what about the health implications of observing Ramadan under lockdown and during a viral pandemic?
Can fasting affect a person’s chances of contracting the coronavirus?
In fact, fasting is believed to be beneficial to the body in a number of ways, including through the effect it has on boosting our immune systems. It is possible that our ancient ancestors recognised the benefits of fasting: As well as during the month of Ramadan in the Muslim calendar, fasting is also observed in the month of Lent in the lead-up to Easter for Christians, and during Yom Kippur in Judaism.
There is also evidence that the ancient Egyptians fasted for long periods to purge their bodies of ailments and disease.