By Dean Olson
The ubiquitous sign of the devout Muslima is the Islamic modesty veil. The Qur’an instructs both Muslim men and women to dress in a modest way: “Tell the believing men to lower their gaze and be modest” (surah 24:30). The clearest verse on the requirement of the veil, commonly called hijab, is surah 24:30-31, asking women to draw their khimar (veil) over their bosoms. A khimar is a head covering or veil worn in public by Muslim women typically covering the head, neck, and shoulders. The majority of female Muslims worldwide follow the Islamic requirement of observing hijab by wearing some form of Islamic dress. Due to cultural variations throughout the Muslim world covering for modesty ranges from wearing a simple head scarf, often called a hijab, to the burqa, a form of “full hijab” that covers almost all exposed skin. In addition to the hijab they are referred to as the burqa in Afghanistan or the niqab in Egypt, amira, shayla, khimar, jilbab, jubbah or jilaabah, manteau in some French speaking areas of Muslim lands, abaya, buibui, duppatta, pastel rida, tudung, turban, yashmak and chador.
Surah 24:30-31, “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their khimar over their breasts and not display their beauty except to their husband, their fathers, their husband’s fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments.”
In the following verse the wives of Muhammad are asked to draw their jilbab (veil) over them (when they go out), as a measure to distinguish themselves from others, so that they are not harassed. Surah 33:59 reads: “Those who harass believing men and believing women undeservedly, bear (on themselves) a calumny and a grievous sin. O Prophet! Enjoin your wives, your daughters, and the wives of true believers that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): That is most convenient, that they may be distinguished and not be harassed.”
Burqas are hot, stifling, and don’t allow for proper air circulation. In a July 2009 interview with western media, an 18-year-old Afghan woman explained, “When I wear a burqa it gives me a really bad feeling. I don’t like to wear it. My family are not really happy with me wearing a chador namaz (the long, billowing dress widely worn in Iran), they tell me to always wear a burqa. But I don’t like it, it upsets me, I can’t breathe properly.” Her cousin, in her early 20s said, “My family says I have to wear it, they say the chador namaz is bad (because it doesn’t cover the wearer adequately). You understand that if you don’t wear a burqa and your face is open, people will just gossip about you. But it does give me bad headaches, it puts a lot of pressure on my head, especially if it’s sewn too tightly.”
Wearing the Muslim veil is not just uncomfortable, it also poses a deadly physical danger. In April, 2010 a 24 year old Australian woman was strangled to death when the burqa she was wearing became caught in the wheels of a go-kart she was driving. And it is not just the complete covering of a burqa that poses a deadly danger. In January, 2014, a 47-year-old Canadian mother of two of Moroccan descent was strangled to death when her hijab became entangled in an escalator at a subway station. And there are anecdotal reports of veiled women pedestrians in Muslim countries being injured and killed when they step in front of passing cars they could not see due to their full body coverings and face veils.
Muslim women who veil themselves commonly suffer from a variety of health ailments caused by covering themselves. In England, doctors report an upsurge in rickets among children and osteomalacia, softening of the bones, among adults in the population of “Asians,” a euphemism for Muslims. They attribute it to the Muslim dress codes which allow little skin to be exposed to sunlight. This can lead to a Vitamin D deficiency in mothers which is then passed on to their children during and after pregnancy. Almost all women who observe the full hijab are chronically deficient in Vitamin D, a vital nutrient that when deficient can lead to osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children. The deficiency stops the bones developing properly producing bow-legs and thickened wrists and ankles. If left untreated, the only remedy may be painful and scarring surgery. Because rickets had disappeared from Great Britain a century earlier, doctors today often have no experience with it and do not recognize the disease until symptoms are advanced. There is also a strong association between deficiency in Vitamin D and an increased risk of developing several deadly cancers, including breast cancer.
A study in Jordan reported in the Jordan Times by the National Centre for Diabetes Endocrinology and Genetics finds that 87 percent of women between the ages of 18 and 70 suffer from vitamin D deficiency. Breaking that number down, 96 percent of those who wear hijabs (headscarves) and niqabs (full body covering including face veils) suffer from vitamin D deficiency. The Times of London reports that the Osteoporosis Unit in St James’s hospital in Dublin warns that Muslim women wearing the burqa in cold countries like Ireland are at increased risk of pelvic fractures during childbirth because of vitamin D deficiency due to a lack of sunlight. In addition, babies born to such women are more prone right after birth to “serious complications such as seizures, growth retardation, muscle weakness and fractures.” As these infants grow into toddlers, “carrying the weight of the torso can force the development of a bow-legged appearance and a waddling gait. Later, there can be rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency, with swollen wrists and bones that fail to fuse in adolescence.”
The Islamic requirement for women to cover themselves when in public also leads to obesity due to lack of exercise. The niqab and burqa, along with social mores surrounding them, discourage exercise leading to unhealthy weight gain. One study finds about 70 percent of women in the Persian Gulf states are obese. Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian territories, and Lebanon are the countries with the highest obesity rates among women while Bahrain, Egypt, and the United Arab Emirates fill out the top ten. Arab countries fill 7 out of the top 10 spots. A 2006 report in the Encyclopedia of Women & Islamic Cultures: Family, Body, Sexuality and Health reports that obesity, especially among women, has become an epidemic in many Arab countries and that “High obesity prevalence among women may be partially due to cultural prohibitions against physical activity.”
Other medical problems stemming from the Islamic requirement of hijab include that multiple sclerosis has skyrocketed in Tehran, increasing almost sevenfold between 1989 and 2005. In Iran’s central province of Isfahan, the incidence nearly tripled from 2005 to 2009. Oxford University researchers suggest that the mandate for modest dress and head coverings for women may have inadvertently fueled the increase by limiting their exposure to sunlight.
In a 2001 study on the effect of the full face and body niqab veil on incidence of respiratory disease in Saudi women, researchers unexpectedly found that bronchial asthma and the common cold “were significantly more common in veils users” wearing the veil may have contributed to dense, wet spots close to the mouth and nose which could facilitate the growth of organisms that lead to infection.
Islam is considered by its adherents to be the perfect way of life for mankind (surah 5:3; 7: 52; 11:1). If Islam was mandated by Allah, and if Allah was omniscient as the God of the Bible is, he would not have created humans with the need to get Vitamin D from exposing their skin to the sun if he also wanted women to observe hijab. The bad fruit of the Islamic requirement for women to veil themselves is obvious.
The Islamic practice of fasting and self-control during the month of Ramadan is so important to the faith that it is considered one of the five pillars of Islam. The pillars are five basic acts in Islam considered mandatory by believers. They are the foundation of Muslim life and include: Shahadah: declaring there is no god except God, and Muhammad is God’s Messenger; Salat: ritual prayer five times a day; Sawm: fasting and self-control during the blessed month of Ramadan; Zakat: giving 2.5% of one’s savings to the poor and needy; Hajj: pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in a lifetime if he/she is able to do so.
The Sawm requirement mandates strictly avoiding fluids and nourishment from dawn to sunset for the 30 days of Ramadan. Muslims are to abstain from eating and drinking, including water, during daylight hours. The requirement to refrain from consuming any food or water during daylight leads many Muslims to wake up before dawn to gorge themselves on food and drink to prepare for the fast. Breaking the fast occurs at sunset and continues the cycle of binge eating and drinking to prepare for the next day. In Qatar, most of the population sleep during the day with the iftar (breaking the fast) beginning at sundown. The problem of binge eating during iftar has significant health implications. The large feasts that many eat lead to medical emergencies. A record high of nearly 8,000 cases of indigestion requiring hospital treatment was recorded at the Hamad Medical Hospital emergency room in Doha during the first week of Ramadan 2011.
Sawm has significant negative health and social implications ranging from dehydration, migraine headaches, increased medical problems such as tachycardia, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, circulatory collapse, sleep disruptions, daytime drowsiness, and reduced alertness and cognition. Fasting also negatively affects lactating mothers by affecting the nutritional make-up of their milk and pregnant women by endangering their babies and the mother’s health. Other negative effects include increases in the toxicity of commonly used medication, increased motor vehicle accidents, physical exhaustion and incapacitation, and negative economic effects such as low productivity, reduced work hours, increased sick leave and absences.
In a recent study done on the Arab world, diseases linked to cholesterol and diabetes increased by nearly 28% in the aftermath of Ramadan because of overeating. The daytime fast often leads observant Muslims to exercise less and to “tend to overeat upon breaking their fast. Typical meals involve heavy, fatty foods that are high in calories,” notes the head of the Emirates Diabetes Society. One survey in Jidda, Saudi Arabia, found 60 percent of respondents reporting excessive weight gain after Ramadan.
It is also common for patients on prescription medications to stop treatment regimens during Ramadan due to the harsh fasting requirements. Other health problems include a threefold increase in migraine headaches during Ramadan. An estimated 90 million of the world’s 1.57 billion Muslims are likely to suffer from migraine headaches during the dawn-to-dusk fasts during the month of Ramadan – which begins at the height of summer heat.
Muslims engaged in manual labor fare even worse. A study of Turkish Muslim laborers in Germany found that many suffered moderate to severe health disturbances including severe dehydration. Heat stress during such abstinence represents a substantial health hazard. Physical symptoms include tachycardia, severe headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and circulatory collapse. The severe dehydration of these workers skewed their blood chemistry and electrolyte imbalances. The medical study was so concerned about the safety of Muslim workers during Ramadan that researchers strongly urged employers to refrain from assigning Islamic workers to work during the peak heat of the day. It also suggested not assigning Muslims to perform strenuous work during daytime during Ramadan.
While non-Muslim workers enjoy no such respite during Ramadan, and are likely to have to increase their effort to offset the lighter effort of their Muslim counterparts, the harsh fast requirements of Sawm led to medical authorities to recommend only moderate work for Muslims during Ramadan. Even under moderate work conditions signs of dehydration were found in many of the laborers monitored. In more severe cases, some of these laborers had to interrupt their observance of Ramadan due to health problems such as acute gout due to serum uric acid increase, or circulatory insufficiency.
Harsh Swam requirements also negatively impact sleep patterns leading to unfavorable side-effects such as lethargy and a lack of motivation that may contribute to a society’s lack of productivity. Research found that the change of meal schedule is accompanied with changes in sleep habits, such as delayed and shortened sleep periods that may affect endocrine and neuroendocrine circadian (body rhythm and sleep) patterns. Other negative effects include daytime drowsiness and reduced alertness and cognition. The physical fatigue associated with fasting results in significant impairment of cognitive function.
The impact on pregnant women and their babies is dramatic. Medical studies show that the nutritional status of lactating women was affected by Ramadan fasting. All of the nutrient intakes (except vitamins A, E and C) decreased during Ramadan. The study recommended excusing lactating women from fasting during Ramadan. A recent study at Columbia University in the U.S. has revealed that pregnant Muslim women who fast during Ramadan are likely to have smaller babies who will be more prone to learning disabilities in adulthood. The study, which used census data from the US, Iraq and Uganda, also discovered long-term effects on the infant’s health in adulthood including future economic success. “We generally find the largest effects on adults when Ramadan falls early in pregnancy.” Researchers also noted, “Rates of adult disability are roughly 20 per cent higher, with specific mental disabilities showing substantially larger effects. Importantly, we detect no corresponding outcome differences when the same design is applied to non-Muslims.”
Fasting has been found to significantly change drug metabolism and deplete crucial chemicals in the liver needed to detoxify medication. Paracetemol, marketed in the U.S. as acetaminophen, is one of the most commonly used drugs to treat common pains such as headaches or gastrointestinal pain, the very same pain that is likely to be encountered by a fasting individual. A significant risk arises when someone who has been fasting takes this common medication, among many others.
Sawm also leads to increased accidents. In 1994, the Accident and Emergency Department of St Mary’s Hospital in London conducted a study to examine if accident and emergency attendances increased during Ramadan for Muslim patients. The results showed a significant rise in the number of Muslims seeking treatment during Ramadan compared to non-Muslims, with the proportion of Muslims rising from 3.63% of total attendances in the periods before and after Ramadan to 5.11% during Ramadan. Similarly, an increase in road traffic accidents in the United Arab Emirates and Jordan during Ramadan has been noted.
Sawm fasting can cause dehydration, sleep disorders and other harmful physical effects. All of these factors affect productivity and the economy. Those living in Muslim majority nations can readily feel the effects of stagnation that accompanies the month of Ramadan. In such places, it is a month that is marked by very low productivity. When the majority of the population of a country observes fasting during the time they are at work, it is inevitable that they will suffer a significant loss in general productivity.
In a survey carried out by Cairo’s Institute of Social Sciences of the Arab World it was found that the productivity of Arab businesses during the month of Ramadan dropped by a staggering 78% due to fewer work hours, absenteeism, and sick leave. Work hours are shorter during Ramadan with employees working four or seven-hour days compared to the regular 8.5-hour days. Some businesses don’t open until 10 am and school timetables change to accommodate the Ramadan calendar. In Bahrain, the work day is reduced to six-hours instead of the normal eight.
Alaa Al-Mohammadi was 27 when she worked as a teaching assistant at King Abdul Aziz University in Saudi Arabia. The college reduced its open hours to 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Al-Mohammadi noticed the low level of productivity during the month of Ramadan, especially among students. “On account of the nature of the month when people stay up all night, absenteeism increases among students,” she said.
In neighboring Jordan, business owners noticed that workers in general are not hard working. An article in the Jordan Times reported that in Ramadan the problem worsens with employees frequently absent or asking for leave, a notable phenomenon that negatively affects the overall economic performance according to economist Salameh Darawi. A second economic analyst, Hussam Ayesh, noted that productivity drops by about 50 per cent in the public and private sectors during Ramadan.
One Muslim noted, “In Ramadan the working hours are nine to one. That’s it. And in these four hours work is the last thing on the workers’ mind. Go to any government office during these four hours and you will encounter a grouchy, lazy and sick-of-life person with bad breath (apparently even brushing your teeth in the morning is not kosher if you are fasting)…This man is in no mood to do anything. He’d rather go home and watch an Indian movie till he breaks fast.” Another reported, “I couldn’t concentrate in school. I had nasty heart burn all morning, because we’d wake up at an ungodly hour to gorge!”
Depriving the body of water and essential nutrients by dividing and postponing meals to irregular intervals does nothing to limit consumption. In fact it causes a host of health, performance and mood disorders. Fasting is not normally prescribed for the well being of human beings. Instead, it is commonly understood that eating healthy, smaller-portioned meals interspersed throughout the day is far better in maintaining a well-balanced diet and far more forgiving on a person’s metabolism. Any claims that prolonged and intermittent fasting contributes to the well-being of an individual’s health are misleading, based on the scientific studies that prove otherwise. If the Islamic argument in favor of fasting is that “we fast because Allah commanded us to do so,” then it is obvious that Allah is not omniscient and does not understand nutrition because the negatives definitely outweigh the positives. The question to the Muslim world is: keeping in mind the above adverse affects of fasting observed in studies, what benefit does the Muslim world get for 1 billion people staying hungry throughout the day for one full month every year? Did Allah actually want Muslims to suffer physically, socially and economically for one month every year? If fasting is somehow beneficial, as Muslims claim, why do Muslims not fast the entire year instead of just one month?
A final note on the bad fruits of Islam noted above. According to Islamic rules the length of a fast is governed by the rising and the setting of the sun. This can cause a huge problem for those who live close to the north or south poles. The closer one gets to the poles the longer the days and nights become. In places like Norway or Alaska, they can eventually extend for up to several months long making the fourth Pillar of Islam, Sawm, impossible to practice without starving yourself to death. If Allah was truly the omniscient creator of the universe, as Muslims believe, he would have been aware of this fact and all of the other negative effects of fasting. The fact that Islam mandates such harmful practices is a good indicator of the lack of omniscience in its founding.
The God-breathed revelations of Moses in the Book of Genesis contained specific details on hygiene and sanitation that served the Israelites well by minimizing the ravages of disease long before human science revealed the knowledge of the secrets of germ theory to prevent such infections. According to the “by their fruits you will know them” standard, Mosaic law yields good fruit that prevents the harm of superstition, myth and false belief.
Divine revelations yield good fruit while revelations from man disguised as divine suffer from the limitations of man’s limited intellect due to our sin nature and lack of omniscience. Man’s way of seeing the world is so tied to our worldly experience that it is impossible to conceive of anything beyond our earthly reality. What may have passed as divinely revealed in pagan, illiterate 7th century Arabia stumbles badly when exposed to contemporary rational inquiry.
Here is a partial list of absurdities and nonsensical revelations in the Qur’an that underscore its bad fruit: the earth is flat (surah 79:30); the sun sets in a muddy spring on earth (surah 18:86); the sun and the moon travel in an orbit (Surah 36:38, 36:40); stars are missiles shot at devils (Surah 67:5); the moon is located in the middle of the universe and stars are in the nearest/lowest part of the universe (surah 71:15); the moon emits it own light, rather than reflecting the sun (surah 71:16) Note: The Arabic word for reflected (in`ikaas) does not appear in this Qur’anic verse that says the moon is a “light.” It instead uses the word “Noor” which is used to denote an entity that emits light; the sun is flat and can be folded up (surah, 81:1); the sky is a tent or dome over the earth (surahs 2:22 and 13:2); sperm originates between the backbone and ribs (surah 86:6-7); the earth is stationary with the stars, sun, and moon revolving around it (surah 27:61); and ants recognize humans and verbally speak with each other (surah 27:18).
The nonsensical revelations that underpin much of Islam’s claim to religiosity are a source of embarrassment to its apologists (Ali, Abid, 2013). That is why they work hard to obfuscate and deceive to reinvent Islam to make it palatable to contemporary audiences by claiming that the hadith or surahs are taken out of context, infidels cannot understand the divine depth and complexity of the Qur’an, errors in translation from Arabic render the surah confusing, critics rely on cherry-picked damaging hadiths that are not considered authentic, and similar illogical excuses. When you have to lie about the revelations of Muhammad in a desperate attempt to alter the reality of Islam, the nature of its fruit are self evident.
Ali, Abid, 2013. Faith Freedom, How Muslims Defend Islam: Their Silly Arguments, Jul 25, 2013, http://www.faithfreedom.org/how-muslims-defend-islam-their-silly-arguments/
Al-Yarisi, Amal, 2013. The Unconventional Beverage: Yemenis Gulp up Camel Urine for Health and Beauty Benefits, Experts Remain Skeptical, Yemen Times, 12 November 2013, http://www.yementimes.com/en/1728/report/3119/The-unconventional-beverage.htm.
Center for the Study of Political Islam, 2014. Understanding Islam: What is the true nature of Islam? http://www.cspipublishing.com
Dean T. Olson, Omaha