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Millions of people around the world will be observing the Muslim holy month of Ramadan under lockdown this year


Covid-19 is really a big story, greatly impacting everyone’s lives. Individuals are disappearing into their homes; more cities and countries are undergoing lockdown; and even schools and universities are shutting down.

Yet life has to continue as normally as possible. Personally, I try to do this but the life pattern and getting on with daily living has to change.

Ramadan is a holy month for Muslims all over the world. During this period, Muslims abstain from eating or drinking from dawn to sunset.

However, this year Muslims face a new challenge: the COVID-19 pandemic. Fasting during a pandemic might be a new thing for some of us. In Indonesia, the usual practices and habits that we have, such as tarawih (Ramadan night prayers) and iftar (breaking-of-the-fast) events are suddenly outlawed by the government due to physical-distancing rules. The customary tradition of going back to our hometowns, known as mudik, has also been prohibited.

Can fasting be good for your health?

Although not consuming enough calories in a day can lower your immune response, the effect of fasting on the immune system is not straightforward.

The immune system is not one thing with an on/off switch.

It is a complicated series of mechanisms that have to be kept in balance. Fasting releases the stress hormone cortisol, which can suppress some immune responses. But there is also good evidence from studies in mice that intermittent fasting of the kind practised during Ramadan can speed up the body’s process of regeneration, causing old cells to die and be replaced with new ones.

The newly implemented laws and prohibitions have made Ramadan this year anything but normal, and may impact our mental health as well. However, we should all maintain hope and strength during these difficult times, and don’t forget to keep practicing physical distancing during fasting.

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