Health & Spirit

Ramadan fasting can conflict with diabetes and other medical concerns

Danae King, The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) on

Published in Religious News

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Fasting during the holy month of Ramadan is integral in the lives of Muslims, but it's not always safe for everyone to participate.

Some health-care providers may not understand the religious importance of fasting during Ramadan, which this year spans from May 5 to June 4. At the same time, some Muslim patients may be inclined to fast no matter what their doctor says.

After realizing there was a disconnect, two local doctors set out to close the gap between health-care providers and their Muslim patients by offering a series of health literacy discussions at NOOR Islamic Cultural Center in Dublin. The first discussion, in April, was on fasting with diabetes during Ramadan.

It can be hard for Muslims to hear from their doctor that they shouldn't fast, said Hassam Munir, a research fellow at the Irving, Texas-based Yaqeen Institute for Islamic Research and a Type 1 diabetic who doesn't fast during Ramadan.

"Fasting in Islam is something that's very highly regarded as almost a supreme form of worship," said Munir, who is based in Toronto, Canada. "It's a very personally enriching experience."

The idea is to stop indulging in food and drink, as people normally do, and focus their daily lives on God, what they should really be focused on, Munir said.


But sometimes people need to be reminded that "acts of worship are dependent on whether we are able to do it or not," said Dr. Sondos Al Sad, a family medicine specialist at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center.

There's a passage in the Qur'an, the Islamic holy book, on exceptions to fasting for Ramadan, Munir said, and if someone is ill they don't have to fast.

"God does not intend for you hardship," Munir said. "If it's going to put you in a serious medical situation with consequences, you should be able to follow the instructions of your medical professional."

Balancing fasting and diabetes can be tricky. For some, it's safe to fast with some modifications, said Dr. Luma Ghalib, a diabetes expert at Ohio State's Wexner Medical Center. For others, it's not safe at all.


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