السبت، أكتوبر 08، 2005

Abu Mubarak

The Medical Benefits of Taraweeh Prayers
Muslims perform five daily contact prayers (Salat) and voluntary
prayers (Sunnah, Nafl) throughout the year and Taraweeh prayers
during the month of Ramadan. This results in moderate physical
exercise particularly to every muscle in the body.
By Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D

Muslims derive therapeutic and spiritual benefits starting from the
Wudu to the physical movements in the Salat - Takbir, Qiyam, Ruku,
Sajda, Jalsa, and Tasleems. Muslims perform five daily contact
prayers (Salat) and voluntary prayers (Sunnah, Nafl) throughout the
year and Taraweeh prayers during the month of Ramadan. This results
in moderate physical exercise particularly to every muscle in the
body. Some muscles contract isometrically (same length) and some
contract in approximation or isotonically (same tension). The energy
needed for the muscle during exercise is met by a process known as
glycogenolysis. The rate of muscle metabolism increases during the
performance of Salat, resulting in a relative deficiency of oxygen
and muscle nutrients. In turn this deficiency causes vasodilation -
an increase in the calibre of blood vessels - thereby allowing blood
to flow easily back to the heart. The temporarily increased load on
the heart acts to strengthen the heart muscle and to improve the
circulation within the heart muscle.

During the month of Ramadan, additional prayers are performed after
salatul Ishaa, called Taraweeh prayers which vary from 8 rakat (unit
of prayer) to 20 rakat with a few minutes break after every 4 rakat
for chanting and extolling the Majesty of Allah. After Iftar
(breaking of fast) the blood glucose level continues to rise from
the food ingested. Just before the Iftar meals, the blood glucose
and insulin levels are at their lowest level. After an hour or so
after the Iftar meal, the blood glucose begins to rise and also
plasma insulin. Liver and the muscles take up the circulating
glucose. The blood sugar reaches high levels in an hour or two and
the benefits of Taraweeh prayers come into effect. The circulating
glucose is metabolised into carbon dioxide and water during the
Taraweeh prayers.

Hence the Taraweeh prayers help in expending the extra calories and
improve flexibility, coordination, reduce stress-related autonomic
responses in healthy persons, and relieve anxiety and depression.

Physical and Emotional Well-Being
The gentle exercises performed in Taraweeh prayers improve physical
fitness, emotional well-being and increase the longevity of the
Namazi (one who performs the Salat or Namaz). When a little extra
effort is made, as in performing the Taraweeh prayers, there will be
a betterment in the endurance, stamina, in flexibility and strength.
It was noted that the five daily prayers (Salat) produce the same
physiological changes without any undesirable side effects as those
produced by jogging or walking at about three miles per hour. Recent
research studies performed on 17,000 Harvard alumni who entered
college between 1916-1950 give strong evidence that only moderate
aerobic exercise, equivalent to jogging about 3 miles a day,
promotes good health and may actually add years to life. Men who
expended about 2000 kcal of energy on a weekly basis (equal to a
daily 30-minute walk, run, cycle, swim, etc.,) had one-quarter to
one-third lower death rates than classmates who did little or no
exercise. In addition to the health-boosting qualities of the Salat,
the Namazi will be trained to be ever ready for any unexpected
physical exertion such as sudden lifting of children, chairs, or
catching a public transportation vehicle. The elderly will
accomplish this more securely and efficiently. Hence this is an
advantage for the elderly to maintain their physical fitness for a
longer period of time. It has been observed that those who fast and
perform the Taraweeh prayers report feeling much convalescing and

The Elderly
As human beings grow older, their physiological activity diminishes,
as a result their bones become thinner and if not taken care of will
suffer from osteoporosis (which causes the fractures of the bones
when they fall in the elderly due to a loss of bone mineral content
and consequent sponginess of the bones. The bone then becomes
structurally unstable, brittle and susceptible to fractures).
Primary osteoporosis is most common among postmenopausal (due to
reduction in oestrogen) women or those who have undergone a
bilateral oophorectomy (both the ovaries removed). Women are six
times more likely than men to develop Type I osteoporosis. The three
major prevention strategies of osteoporosis are a high dietary
intake of calcium and vitamin D, regular exercise and oestrogen
replacement in postmenopausal women. The skin also becomes fragile
and crinkled. The repair processes of the body become slower and
immune responses are decreased. In the elderly their physical
activity is reduced as a result they have lower levels of Insulin
Growth Factor 1. Reserve functions of all vital organs decrease and
the elderly are more susceptible to mishaps and ailments. Because of
repeated and regular movements of the body during Salat the muscle
strength, tendon power, joint flexibility and the cardiovascular
reserve are improved. Hence Salat and Taraweeh prayers enable the
elderly to enrich the quality of life and to meet with unforeseen
difficulties such as falls which could injure their bodies.
Therefore Taraweeh prayers will improve their endurance, self-
respect and self-confidence in being self-reliant.

Adrenaline is secreted even by minor activity. The secretion
outlasts the incitement. Even after the Taraweeh prayers are over
the effects of adrenaline and noradrenaline are manifest.
(Adrenaline also called epinephrine is produced by the adrenal
glands. The middle part of these glands, the adrenal medulla,
secretes the hormone, which is chemically almost identical to the
transmitter substance noradrenaline produced at the ends of
sympathetic nerves. Adrenaline secretion into the bloodstream in
stress causes acceleration of the heart, constriction of arterioles,
and dilation of the pupils. In addition, adrenaline produces a
marked increase in metabolic rate thus preparing the body for
emergency.) Even the thought or the intention of performing the
Taraweeh prayers is sufficient to activate the sympathetic nervous
system. Sympathetic nervous system (thoraco-lumbar nervous system)
is one of the two division of the autonomic nervous system, which
supplies motor nerves to the smooth muscles of internal organs and
to the heart muscle. Sympathetic nerve fibres arise via spinal
nerves in the thoracic and lumbar regions. Their endings release
mainly adrenaline, which increases heart rate and breathing rate,
raises blood pressure, and slows digestive processes, thereby
preparing the body for "fight or flight" and antagonising the
effects of the sympathetic nervous system. The adrenaline would
redistribute the blood in the body to the active muscles, would
mobilise liver glycogen if necessary in order to provide glucose for
the active tissues, would diminish fatigue in skeletal muscles and
would facilitate alveolar ventilation relaxing bronchiolar muscle,
and would initiate cardiovascular changes. Exercise induces a more
effective functioning of beta-adrenoreceptors located on cell

Beneficial effects of Gentle Exercise
The Taraweeh prayer is considered to be gentle exercise. The
beneficial effects of gentle exercise on the body are many which are
elaborated here.

Effects on Skeletal Muscle
Once muscles atrophy inspite of the availability of ample proteins.
During the Salat and Taraweeh, every muscle in the body contracts
isotnically and others isometrically. This gentle exercise also
enhances endurance and diminishes tiredness. It helps the
incapacitated to make the most of their remnant capabilities. The
blood flow in strung muscle is low. During the prayers the blood
flow is greatly increased to the muscles. Blood flow sometimes
increases even before the start of Taraweeh prayers, with just the
thought of performing the Taraweeh prayers. In addition to needing
fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, the human body requires minerals
such as Potassium for nerve and muscle activity. It is found in
fruits, meats, seafood and milk. Potassium deficiency leads to
muscular and neurologic disorders. Potassium is also important in
the transmission of nerve impulses and is a major positive ion in
intracellular fluids. Potassium is involved in cellular enzyme
activities, and it helps regulate the chemical reactions by which
carbohydrates is converted to energy and amino acids are converted
to protein. Also Potassium ions cause vasodilation of arterioles.
During the Taraweeh prayers, systolic Blood pressure may rise (the
larger number in B.P.) a little and the diastolic Blood Pressure(the
lower number in B.P.) may remain unchanged or even fall. However
after the Taraweeh prayers are over, the B.P. may drop to just below
normal levels which is a welcome sign. Taraweeh prayers improve
respiratory efficiency; circulation in the capillaries surrounding
the alveoli, or air sacs, is increased, and this brings about
enhanced gas exchange and deeper breathing. The increase in the
maximal consumption of oxygen is what makes the Namazi feel better.
Those who perform the Taraweeh prayers, apart from the prescribed
Salat, are more alert and active than those who do not perform the
Taraweeh prayers, even after the age of retirement. Taraweeh prayers
improve physical strength and joint stability and reduce the risk of
injury to the tendons and connective tissues. After age 40, the bone
mineral density falls with age. Taraweeh prayers increase bone
mineral density in both menopausal and in elderly women and prevents
osteoporosis and maintains normalcy in bone structures. Osteoporosis
results in hip fractures in women after menopause and in elderly
men. The risk of osteoporosis is substantially reduced by regular
Salat and Taraweeh prayers. The prayers improve lubrication of
joints, movement, and maintain flexibility. Deep vein thrombosis
(the most common cause of ulceration of the legs in the elderly) is
prevented by performing Salat and Taraweeh prayers.

Metabolic Effects
Salat improves body weight control and expend calories without
proportionate increase in appetite. A combination of moderate
dietary restriction, both at the Iftar and Sahur (early morning
breakfast before the start of fast) meals, accompanied by the
Taraweeh prayers, should achieve weight reduction. This will also
reduce both fat and body weight, but fat-free weight will remain
constant or may even increase slightly. Hence during Ramadan one
should not overeat at the Sahur and Iftar meals and continue to
perform Salat and Taraweeh prayers in order to lose some of the
excess weight.

It is well known that exercise prevents coronary heart disease
(CHD), increases high density lipo-proteins (HDL or healthy
Cholesterol), increases maximum oxygen uptake, slows the heart,
lowers the B.P. slightly, decreases ventricular ectopic activity,
enlarges the lumen of the coronary arteries and increases cardiac
output. Exercise also improves carbohydrate tolerance and improves
late-onset diabetes, and helps cases of chronic respiratory
diseases. Beneficial changes have been recorded in the lipid
profile, B.P., clotting factors, weight reduction and insulin
sensitivity of muscles and other tissues in persons who exercise
regularly. Growth Hormone secretion is elevated by fasting and it is
further elevated by Taraweeh prayers. As Growth Hormone is necessary
for collagen formation, this may be an important factor as to why
the skin of those who fast regularly during Ramadan and perform the
Taraweeh prayers do not get wrinkled, even when they grow old.

Mental Health
It is a known fact that exercise improves mood, thought and
behaviour. Exercise improves the quality of life, induces greater
sense of well-being and energy, reduces anxiety and depression,
influences mood favourably and contributes to self-esteem and an
aura of confidence; improves memory in the elderly especially with
constant repetition of the Ayaat (verses) from the Glorious Quran
and other Ayaat which exalt His Glory. This constant repetition of
the Quranic Ayaat would help to screen the mind from the incoming
thoughts. It has been found by a Harvard University researcher, Dr.
Herbert Benson that repetition of a prayer, Ayaat of the Quran or
remembrance (Dhikr) of Allah or muscular activity coupled with
passive disregard of intensive thoughts causes a "relaxation
response" that leads to the lowering of Blood Pressure and decreases
in oxygen consumption and a reduction in heart and respiratory
rates. All these are combined in the Taraweeh prayer which is an
ideal condition for "relaxation response." It combines repeated
muscular activity with repetition of Salat, chanting of words of
glorification of Allah and of supplications. The Taraweeh prayer
puts the mind in a relaxed state. This calm state of the mind may be
partly due to the release of encephalins, beta-endorphins
(endogenous morphines) and others into the blood circulation.
Endorphins are any one of the neuropeptides composed of many amino
acids, elaborated by the pituitary gland and acting on the central
and peripheral nervous systems to reduce pain. Endorphins are
categorised as alpha-endorphin, beta-endorphin, and gamma-endorphin
which produce pharmacologic effects similar to morphine. Beta-
endorphin found in the brain and GI(gastro-intestinal) tract is the
most potent of the endorphins and is a powerful analgesic(pain
killer) in humans and animals. For example during childbirth many
women release endorphins reducing a woman's sensation of pain. The
release of endorphins is associated with an euphoria. During
childbirth, women who give birth with little or no medication
sometimes label this euphoria a "birth climax."

Islam is the only religion where physical movements of Salat and
Taraweeh prayers are combined with spiritual exercise. When Salat
and Taraweeh prayers are practised throughout a person's life,
recurring every few hours or so, trains a person to undertake the
difficult task of meditation during physical manoeuvres of Salat and
Taraweeh prayers, so that the Namazi(one who performs the Salat)
benefits both from spiritual as well as physical exercise. Salat and
Taraweeh prayers are unique in that tension builds up in the muscles
during physical manoeuvres on the one hand, while tension is
relieved in the mind due to the spiritual ingredient, on the other
hand. The following benefits have been noted among those who perform
the Taraweeh prayers: burning off calories and losing weight,
maintaining muscle tone and body composition, joint flexibility
(stiff joints are often the result of disuse, not arthritis),
increasing metabolic rate, improving circulation, improving heart
and lung function and aerobic capacity, decreasing heart disease
risk profile, increasing your sense of self-control, reducing your
level of stress, increasing your ability to concentrate, improving
your appearance, reducing depression and resistance to depression,
helping you sleep better and suppressing your appetite. Evidence is
also accumulating that those who perform regular Salat along with
voluntary prayers can conserve and actually retard the loss of bone
mass in the elderly, thus staving off the ravages of osteoporosis
that afflicts both men and women. It is also possible to retard the
aging process and confer some protection to health in later life.
Those who have performed Salat (Fard and Wajib), Sunnah and Nafl and
Taraweeh prayers throughout life get protection and a positive
effect in terms of health and longevity. They reverse the life-
shortening effects of cigarette smoking and excess body weight. Even
people with high blood pressure (a primary heart disease risk)
reduced their death rate by one-half and their risk of dying from
any of the major diseases is reduced. They also counter genetic
tendencies toward an early death.

Hence Salat (Fard, Wajib), Sunnah, Nafl and Taraweeh prayers are
necessary for Muslims to preserve life and their desirable qualities
into old age.

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