Fasting and productivity

Egypt's Dar Al-Ifta

Fasting and productivity


Fasting is an arduous process which leaves me unproductive. What can I do?


As the Quran mentions, fasting is not unique to Islam. It says: "Fasting has been prescribed on you as it has been prescribed on the people before you in order to teach you God consciousness" (2: 183). Different religious traditions still have fasting as an integral spiritual practice in one form or another. In Islam, the prescribed fast takes place during the ninth lunar month which is Ramadan. A person begins his fast at dawn by abstaining from food, drink, sexual intercourse and bad thoughts, words and deeds until the sun sets. Since this covers the majority of the working day, it is this that perhaps has led to the notion that fasting reduces individual and societal productivity.

In Islam and other religions, the ultimate goal of fasting is to discipline the self and make it more mindful of God Who is the source of all goodness and happiness. It is one of the highest spiritual practices and converts each and every moment from a horizontal dimension to a vertical one in which we are mindful of God at every moment. This provides us with extra spiritual energy, allowing for more productivity that is otherwise unattainable. The proof for this is that throughout Islamic history, many of the important battles were fought during the month of Ramadan such as the battle of Badr and the conquest of Spain.

The lethargy and unproductivity found today in many Muslim countries during the month of Ramadan has more to do with indifference and lack of motivation rather than the weakening effects of fasting. The month of Ramadan is a month of extra worship and spiritual motivation where one breaks his or her normal routine and supplements it with a routine of extra prayer, charity and kindness. Many Muslim societies today have sought to capitalize on Ramadan as a month of partying into the late hours of the night. It is this exhaustive schedule, and not the fast itself, that causes a lack of motivation to work.

Ramadan is a time for introspection on an individual and communal level. In many ways, this makes it the saving grace of society. For an entire month, the entire population is asked to give up worldly attachments and concerns and focus on improving themselves and promoting their social bonds. If this occurs in every city, be it Muslim or non-Muslim, many societal problems could be addressed on a yearly basis at no extra cost to the government. It is in this way that fasting does not slow productivity but improves the quality of life for individuals and the community at large.

And God Almighty knows best.

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