The Medical Benefits of Taraweeh Prayers

The Spiritual Significance of Fasting in Ramadan
Ramadan: A Spiritual Retreat in Times of Hardship
The Meaning of Ikhlas (Sincerity)

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 strengthens the heart muscle and improves 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, blood glucose and plasma insulin begin to rise. The 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 metabolized into carbon dioxide and water during the Taraweeh prayers.

Those who have performed Salat (Fard and Wajib), Sunnah and Nafl, and Taraweeh prayers throughout life get protection and a positive effect on health and longevity.

Hence the Taraweeh prayers help in expanding 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 endurance, stamina, 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 every week (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 the sudden lifting of children, chairs, or catching a public 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 more extended period. It has been observed that those who fast and perform the Taraweeh prayers report feeling much convalescing and robust.

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 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, 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 mind may be partly due to the release of encephalins, beta-endorphins (endogenous morphine), and others into the blood circulation.

Endorphins are any 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 categorized as alpha-endorphin, beta-endorphin, and gamma-endorphin, producing pharmacologic effects similar to morphine. Beta-endorphin found in the brain and GI (gastrointestinal) tract is the most potent endorphins and is a powerful analgesic (pain killer) in humans and animals. For example, during childbirth many women release endorphins reducing a woman’s pain sensation.

The release of endorphins is associated with euphoria. During delivery, 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 practiced throughout a person’s life, recurring every few hours or so, trains a person to undertake the difficult task of meditation during physical maneuvers 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’s prayers are unique in that tension builds up in the muscles during physical maneuvers on the one hand. In contrast, pressure is relieved in the mind due to the spiritual ingredient, on 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 and voluntary prayers can conserve and 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.