The sickness unto death

More on the joys of Ramadan.

For most of Australia’s 496,000 Muslims, the start of Ramadan today is a holy  month of fasting by day and feasting by night. But for the estimated 22,000  Australian Muslims with diabetes, it can be a time of fluctuations in blood  sugar levels that can be dangerous, even deadly.

So they should just not do it.

But no one should do it – it’s not healthy for anyone. Fasting and bingeing is a really terrible way to eat. Predators in the wild have to do that because that’s how it is (and lots of them starve to death), but it’s not something to do as a religious offering.

”I’ve seen people die one or two minutes before the fast is ending,” said a visiting endocrinologist from Saudi Arabia, Dr Al Saeed. ”They developed hypoglycemia but refused to break their fast. They became unconscious and  died.”

The Koran specifically exempts those who are sick or suffer from a chronic condition such as  diabetes from fasting. Yet 43 per cent of people with type 1 diabetes and 79 per cent of patients with type 2 diabetes fasted through  Ramadan, reported the Diabetes Journal.

That is scary.

During Ramadan last year, Ms Hana broke her fast once when she started to feel  dizzy. Before fasting, she sought medical advice on how to manage her diabetes. But her parents, who live in Tripoli, Lebanon, insisted on fasting every year, even though it made their diabetes worse.

That’s scary, frustrating, infuriating, pathetic. Taking risks for a good reason is one thing; doing it for a crappy one is another.


  1. NewEnglandBob says

    Willful stupidity is not something I can be concerned about. I just see it as Natural selection and improving on the intelligence of our species.

  2. Brian says

    At least here in OZ, it’s the middle of winter, so the sun rises at about 7:30am and sets at about 5:30 pm. Only 10 hours plus a bit of daylight (if you include the periods of light before sunrise and after sunset).

    I pity those buggers in the hot countries of the northern hemisphere where it’s high summer, or the buggers north of the arctic circle with near 24 hours daylight to fast. Imagine fasting on the North Pole. Bloody minded stupidity.

  3. carlie says

    At the smallest of silver linings, at least it’s a tightly regimented fast that is broken every night. There are lots of Christians that decide to fast when they get stressed out or have big decisions to make or what have you, and they just go all out on fasting for a day, a couple of days, as long as they can go, etc. There are all kinds of books about it, none with any actual medical knowledge input. Hell, you can even buy journals and study guides for it.

  4. MNb0 says

    You better get your facts right – when criticizing something (and islam deserves to be criticized) it’s not handy to show your ignorance.
    As my ex-wife is a moslima I have done it three times. Fasting does not lead to bingeing – who fasts eats less overall and at a more modest pace. The first meal after sunset is very light.
    Fortunately you at least mentioned that sick people – and that includes diabetes patients – are excused. So are traveling people and menstruating women.
    If anything those patients who insist on fasting are violating the rules of islam.

  5. says

    Well MNbo I have seen a lot of news stories that say people do eat and drink a lot after sunset. I don’t know that your personal experience shows that that’s wrong.

    I don’t think being excused really makes up for the fact that it’s an unhealthy idea in the first place, especially the part about not drinking even water. That’s dangerous for anyone.

  6. Katkinkate says

    Fasting for a healthy person is no big deal. We can forgo a meal or 3 with no problems and as long as the weather is not too hot, healthy kidneys can tolerate the dehydration, especially if you load up with water beforehand. Its the not so healthy that have the problems, as well as kids and old folk.

  7. Ysanne says

    According to the Brunei and Malaysian muslim girls I went to school with, one is not only excused from fasting when one is ill, pregnant, menstruating or travelling, but forbidden. And there was always an “extreme unforeseen circumstances that would make it dangerous/impractical” clause.

    I agree that this whole total fasting business is stupid and dangerous even for healthy people, but people who consciously endanger their lives by fasting (e.g. these diabetes patients in the article) are not being extra-good, they’re actually breaking the rule. So what harms them in the end is their personal need to punish themselves (usually comes with a holier-than-thou mindset), and not really their religion.

  8. says


    I had Muslim neigbors who had the deep fryer going all afternoon every afternoon during Ramadan. They kept the fast (except for their small children) but once sundown passed oh boy did they eat. I’d visit, and I never saw such a spread!

    So a light meal might be recommended, but it’s not univerally followed.

  9. says

    So, they’Re trying to be holier than their holy book.
    Just pretending their god was real, wouldn’t he be fucking angry with you for disobeying the “sensible” exclusions he laid down for you just so you could show your devotion a bit more?

    A friend of mine is a cook at a youth hostel and last Ramadan was his first on the job. It made him sad and angry to see the kids (school classes with muslims pupils) go hungry and more importantly thirsty. He tried to get them to drink at least a bit and made sure that there was a special accessible fridge well filled for them after sunset (usually after dinner all food-stuff is packed away and the dining areas locked.

  10. Paddy says

    Stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid, stupid.

    Considering what they base their beliefs on, I don’t think we should really be surprised by any other stupid act that stems from that belief.

  11. says

    Fasting for a healthy person is no big deal

    Indeed. I’ve fasted myself for several days. Not a big deal, as long as you’re in otherwise good health, take reasonable precautions and don’t overdo it.
    The water restriction is somewhat more concerning, especially in a warm country. Even a small water loss can lead to reduced mental focus. I’d hate to see what the roads in Saudi-Arabia look like near the end of the days. Thousands of dehydrated people driving? Bad idea.

    The major problem with this is that it comes in the form of a religious obligation, not an individual choice. The result of this is that people might feel obligated to fast, even if they’re not in good health, resulting in potentially life-threatening complications.
    It’s not uncommon for people to be stupid when it comes to their religious beliefs. I’d imagine that many would think that Allah will protect them if they just show enough commitment. That’s a recipe for disaster, since they’d ignore warning signs that would lead any other person to skip the fasting when it became dangerous.

    Reasonable, intelligent, risk-aware fasting is fine. Stupid, dogmatic, let-god-take-the-wheel fasting however could lead to serious problems.

  12. says

    It may not be a big deal, but it’s not optimum. It’s not something to do just for the hell of it. I don’t think people should be advising it, as if it were beneficial in some way. There are a lot of loopy types who think it “clears the toxins” or some such nonsense.

  13. says

    Oh certainly, the touted health benefits are bullshit. If you’re doing it because you think it “clears the toxins” you’re wasting your time.

    However, I’d disagree that you shouldn’t do it for the hell of it. That’s exactly why you should do it. Fasting has interesting effects on the mind and it’s worth doing just for that, to learn more about how your brain works.

    Of course, I sometimes have some weird notions about what constitutes fun, so your mileage may vary.

  14. Godless Heathen says

    Thousands of dehydrated people driving? Bad idea.

    Yep. One of the causes of fainting is dehydration.

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