Indiscriminate consumption dangerous – Experts
Nothing wrong with it – Clerics
From Nana-Hauwa Sule & Aminu Adamu Naganye (Kano)
For many Muslims around the world, Ramadan is a month of reflection, introspection and religious growth. It is also a month of challenging dietary changes as the Muslim faithful are required to eat and drink only twice a day. While many Muslims partake in the fast with healthy foods and drinks, some have decided to supplement with energy drinks and most recently, ORS.
ORS or Oral Rehydration Solutions are used to combat dehydration in people suffering from diarrhea. It contains water, electrolytes and some carbohydrates that replenish the energy in patients with diarrhea. It is usually sold over the counter and often without the requirement of a prescription, hence the easy access to the pill.
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Daily Trust gathered that some young Muslims in Kano have now taken to drinking ORS at Sahur, the mealtime for fasting Muslims before the break of dawn, while some even at Iftar when it is time to break their fast.
One of the users, Mariya Sani, told Daily Trust that using ORS during Sahur and Iftar was the only way to get through the fasting.
“I am a tailor, I use energy to work and I easily get tired. This is why I take ORS for Sahur to have the energy I need to work. If I don’t take it, I become weak. I also take it during Iftar to regain my strength”, she said.
Like Mariya, Hadiza Sule also believes that taking ORS was the key to maintaining energy during Ramadan.
She told Daily Trust that she believes taking ORS was the only way to fast till the end and justified her action by saying, “I know doctors prescribe it for sick people who are weak and since fasting naturally makes us weak, I take it to regain strength.
“My 10-year-old son came back from Islamiyya School last week and told me I should buy ORS for him so that he can see through the fasting,” a father, who asked not to be named, said, adding that it is now common knowledge for his son to be demanding for it.
Muhammad Yusuf says he takes the solution because he believes that the drug has no side effects whatsoever even though he takes it without prescription. He said: “I have been taking ORS for a while now, even outside of the fasting period. But during fasting, I take it at Sahur and Iftar to keep my energy up. I have been taking it for a long time now and it doesn’t harm.”
The increase in the consumption of the drugs like other energy drinks has naturally increased its demand at pharmacies and patent medicine stores in the city as admitted by Yahaya Muhammad Sani, a pharmacist.
Sani told one of our reporters that “With the coming of Ramadan, there is a high surge in the demand for ORS/ORT. People come here to purchase at Iftar and keep it to use during Sahur.
“We do sell a carton now in a week because of the demand but before the Ramadan fast, we barely sold 10 out of the 100 sachets in a carton.”
Indiscriminate consumption dangerous – Experts
But as a pharmacist, Sani said the indiscriminate consumption of the solution could have an adverse effect on the person.
“There is a problem taking ORS indiscriminately without a doctor’s prescription. If you are aged or have any underlying health condition, you are more vulnerable to problems. People should avoid taking it and take a lot of water instead.”
He said pharmacists cannot regulate how the people access the drug because “When they come to buy, if you refuse to sell to them, they would still go elsewhere to buy, so I have to reluctantly sell to them.”
Speaking in a similar vein, Naseeba Babale, a lab scientist said that the indiscriminate consumption of ORS might not end well for its consumers.
“ORS is given to people that have lost something we call electrolytes usually through diarrhea and sometimes vomiting.
“Although people get dehydrated during fasting, it does not lead to electrolyte loss. You see, it contains some salts, which the body of a fasting person doesn’t really need.
“People should be wary about taking it because it could lead to an overload of sodium and then hypertension might set in.”
A medical doctor, Abdullah Shittu also called on people to be wary of indiscriminate consumption of the solution. “This is more, especially with people who are already predisposed to hypertension, they should avoid taking ORS.”
He added that people should avoid using unprescribed drugs.
ORS not haram – Clerics
An Islamic cleric, who preferred not to be named, told Daily Trust that although culturally and even to an extent, morally taking energy supplements like ORS during fasting is frowned upon, spiritually, there is no teaching that prohibits taking them.
He said, “Muslims are told to eat well at Sahur and even to delay eating Sahur so that they eat enough to sustain them through the fast. As long as they don’t take the ORS during the day when the fast is going on, I don’t believe it invalidates the fast. But God knows best.”
In agreement, another cleric, Dr. Shuaibu Doury said that as long as the supplements taken to conserve energy are alcohol-free and consumed within the stipulated time, they do not invalidate the fast.
“I will personally endorse it to people whose nature of work calls for physical and even mental exertion,” he said.
But a former Chairman of Kano State Council of Ulamas, Sheikh Ibrahim Khalil warned that though it is not haram, people should not take it without a prescription by a qualified medical doctor.
“Since doctors prescribe it for patients suffering from diseases such as diarrhea and people do take it to regain their energy because of the fasting, taking ORS doesn’t invalidate fasting. If people take it due to the excessive heat or sun, if it is prescribed or recommended by a doctor to lessen the effect of fasting, then there is no problem.
“Fasting isn’t about hunger. It is about abstinence from eating and drinking. If you take it to regain energy to do your work during the day, it doesn’t affect your fasting. It is not prohibited. It doesn’t invalidate your fasting.”
Sheikh Khalil gave an instance of women being permitted “To take some drugs to pause their menstrual period to be able to fast or to be able to perform Hajj. So, there is no problem if taking ORS will give you strength to fast or to allow you to do your work”
Another cleric and university lecturer, Dr. Ibrahim Siraj said as long as it is not prohibited in Islam, you cannot stop people from using it.
“ORS on its own has no substance in the composition that is forbidden in Islam. So, it can’t be said to be prohibited. If there is something in it that is forbidden, Islamic clerics can give Fatwah against it. It is medical experts that can advise accordingly, if there is anything harmful in taking it, then Islamic clerics too would rely on the expert’s submission to give Fatwah.
“If doctors recommend it to be used, then there is no problem, it can be used since it is acceptable in Islam. But if doctors say there is a problem, then doctors’ professional advice should prevail,” he added.