Islam has raised the status of women from below the earth to so high, that paradise lies at her feet. - Dr. Muhammad Fazlur Rahman Ansari
Related authentic hadiths (statements of Prophet Muhammad):
A man once consulted the Prophet Muhammad about taking part in a military campaign. The Prophet asked the man if his mother was still living. When told that she was alive, the Prophet said: “(Then) stay with her, for Paradise is at her feet.” (Al-Tirmidhi)
A man once asked the Prophet to whom he should show the most kindness. The Prophet replied: “Your mother, next your mother, next your mother, and then your father.” (Sunan of Abu-Dawood)
We can make dua* at any time of the day or night! But then there are a few special times when Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is extra close to us. One of those times is on Fridays, right before maghrib… Remember to make dua then! :)
(* ask Allah for something)
An interesting article came out in the Guardian the other day about fasting and its possible benefits on the brain. Below is the article in its entirety.
Fasting can help protect against brain diseases, scientists say
Claim that giving up almost all food for one or two days a week can counteract impact of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
Fasting for regular periods could help protect the brain against degenerative illnesses, according to US scientists.
Researchers at the National Institute on Ageing in Baltimore said they had found evidence which shows that periods of stopping virtually all food intake for one or two days a week could protect the brain against some of the worst effects of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other ailments.
"Reducing your calorie intake could help your brain, but doing so by cutting your intake of food is not likely to be the best method of triggering this protection. It is likely to be better to go on intermittent bouts of fasting, in which you eat hardly anything at all, and then have periods when you eat as much as you want," said Professor Mark Mattson, head of the institute’s laboratory of neurosciences.
"In other words, timing appears to be a crucial element to this process," Mattson told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Vancouver.
Cutting daily food intake to around 500 calories – which amounts to little more than a few vegetables and some tea – for two days out of seven had clear beneficial effects in their studies, claimed Mattson, who is also professor of neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Scientists have known for some time that a low-calorie diet is a recipe for longer life. Rats and mice reared on restricted amounts of food increase their lifespan by up to 40%. A similar effect has been noted in humans. But Mattson and his team have taken this notion further. They argue that starving yourself occasionally can stave off not just ill-health and early death but delay the onset of conditions affecting the brain, including strokes. “Our animal experiments clearly suggest this,” said Mattson.
He and his colleagues have also worked out a specific mechanism by which the growth of neurones in the brain could be affected by reduced energy intakes. Amounts of two cellular messaging chemicals are boosted when calorie intake is sharply reduced, said Mattson. These chemical messengers play an important role in boosting the growth of neurones in the brain, a process that would counteract the impact of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
"The cells of the brain are put under mild stress that is analogous to the effects of exercise on muscle cells," said Mattson. "The overall effect is beneficial."
The link between reductions in energy intake and the boosting of cell growth in the brain might seem an unlikely one, but Mattson insisted that there were sound evolutionary reasons for believing it to be the case. “When resources became scarce, our ancestors would have had to scrounge for food,” said Mattson. “Those whose brains responded best – who remembered where promising sources could be found or recalled how to avoid predators — would have been the ones who got the food. Thus a mechanism linking periods of starvation to neural growth would have evolved.”
This model has been worked out using studies of fasting on humans and the resulting impact on their general health – even sufferers from asthma have shown benefits, said Mattson – and from experiments on the impact on the brains of animals affected by the rodent equivalent of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Now Mattson’s team is preparing to study the impact of fasting on the brain by using MRI scans and other techniques.
If this final link can be established, Mattson said that a person could optimise his or her brain function by subjecting themselves to bouts of “intermittent energy restriction”. In other words, they could cut their food intake to a bare minimum for two days a week, while indulging for the other five. “We have found that from a psychological point of view that works quite well. You can put up with having hardly any food for a day if you know that for the next five you can eat what you want.”
Yet another motivation to practice the sunnah of fasting, right? :)
As a reminder to myself and then others, the Prophet Muhammad sallalllahu alayhi wa sallam fasted and recommended that we practice any of the following regular fasts:
And then there are a few significant days in the year when it’s highly recommended to fast:
It’s best to choose one or more of the above and do them regularly, as opposed to doing all of these one year and then not doing anything the next! This is the advice of the Prophet Muhammad sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam.
It’s like the standard advice for losing weight - don’t yo-yo diet, eating very little during the diet and then returning to old ways afterwards, causing one’s weight to dramatically go down and up, but instead change one’s way of eating in order to be consistently healthy.
Of course all of the fasts mentioned above are extra fasts, in addition to the required fast of Ramadan. So even if it’s a struggle to fast regularly throughout the year, at least there’s the yearly benefit of Ramadan :)
The BBC (I love the BBC!) had a great article the other day on willpower. A current theory is that willpower is like a muscle, and can be strengthened with practice.
Roy Baumeister’s theory
- Willpower - or self-control - is the root of civilisation, it is what sets humans apart from animals who tend to act on impulse
- It helps us to make better choices when faced with difficult decisions - by strengthening our ability to reason
- Willpower is a limited physiological resource powered by glucose
- You can boost your willpower reserves temporarily by ingesting glucose
- In the long term you can strengthen your willpower by doing exercises that override habit.
- If you are right-handed, use your left hand for every day tasks, speak in full sentences or sit up straight
Another psychologist agrees to some extent, with certain differences:
Michael Inzlicht, a psychologist at the University of Toronto argues for a more nuanced understanding of the processes behind self-control.
"It’s clear that consuming glucose can improve self-control," he says. "But we also know that being in a happy mood improves willpower. Being given a choice improves willpower and paying attention can improve willpower."
"Glucose does seem to improve things, but this does not mean that glucose is the resource that underlies self-control."
He believes glucose may have a psychological rather than a physical effect. But he doesn’t entirely disagree with Baumeister’s muscle metaphor.
"I think willpower can be improved and exercising it seems like a promising way to do this," he says.
From my knowledge of Islam, I think willpower is something that we can improve. Allah (subhanahu wa ta’ala) teaches us to practice self-control in so many different ways throughout life. For example, there’s the avoidance of certain foods and drinks at all times, the required abstinence from food and drink during Ramadan, and then the voluntary fasting we can do throughout the year. The daily prayers we’re required to do, and then extra prayers we can do throughout the day.
And of course the ways that as Muslims we should treat those around us: having patience in all situations, being good to our neighbors regardless of how they treat us, keeping in touch with our relatives (especially our Mom - hi Mom! :) and being honest in our life affairs.
All of the above might seem like obvious ways to behave in society. But when your neighbors regularly play their music waaay too loudly, or close relatives un-invite you to their wedding, it can be difficult to have patience and still treat them well. We’re all human after all. I think this is where the daily training from fasting, prayers, etc. can help.
Willpower is also there to help us with temptations. And this can be even harder. We can only pray that we remember Allah in those difficult moments. And again hopefully we’ve practiced a lot throughout the year in easier situations, so that at that moment of crisis we can make the decision that’s best for our hereafter.
May Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala guide us all and protect us from harm, ameen!