And whoever does more good than he is bound to do, it is better for him; for to fast is better for you – if you only knew. [Quran – 2:184].
Ketosis illustrates a striking convergence of religion and science. Normally, our body converts carbohydrates into glucose for energy. During fasting, however, we use up our glucose and our body switches to an internal source of energy: ketone bodies.
Ketone bodies are compounds produced in the liver and kidney. Stored fatty acids are broken down, released into the blood stream, then converted into ketone bodies that substitute for glucose as fuel for the brain.
In the brain, the ketone bodies are used in the energy producing Krebs cycle, with excess ketone excreted in the breath and urine. The odor of a faster’s breath is a byproduct of ketosis.
These physiological changes produced by fasting are studied primarily in treatment of diabetes, seizures and epilepsy. The altered state of consciousness produced during ketosis does not garner much scientific attention. While science describes the process of ketosis, it is left to religion to describe the process of God consciousness.
Spiritual fasting begins with a psychological, emotional condition produced by sincere faith. The physiological processes of ketosis complement this psychologic state to produce an altered state recognized in every major religion.
Those who believe, and whose hearts find satisfaction in the remembrance of God: for without doubt in the remembrance of God do hearts find satisfaction. Those who have believed and done righteous deeds – a blest state is theirs and a good return. [Quran 13:27-29].
What we eat of earthly knowledge becomes stench on our breath as we spew incoherent discourses formed from message boards, mundane news and graceless gossip. As violins filled with sludge or lutes clogged with mud, our congested cavities muffle the braying emanating from our putrid thoughts.
What we eat of spiritual knowledge becomes scent that remains on our breath onto the day of judgement. The smell of a fasting mouth is sweeter to God than perfume:
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle [peace be upon him] said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, the smell coming out from the mouth of a fasting person is more fragrant to Allah [God] than the fragrance of musk.” [Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 115].
When we fast for God, our intention establishes the goal. Our mind sets out to attain an altered state of consciousness that opens the soul to God. The fast discards self-centeredness and pride, while humbly pleading for God’s mercy and protection, those unearned Divine gifts promised to the sincere believer.
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed: “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with all who love him and obey his commands, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes and our fathers, and to all the people of the land . . . The Lord our God is merciful and forgiving, even though we have rebelled against him; even though we have not obeyed the LORD our God or kept the laws he gave us through his servants the prophets, He is merciful. [Daniel 9:3-10].