Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD, Chief Editor of the Muslim Times
Our brain is made of neurons. It is no wonder that whatever we do or think has, in the final analysis, to do with our neurons or brain cells. They communicate with each other at the junctions that are called synapses, also called neuronal junction, the site of transmission of electric nerve impulses. The synapse, with its neurotransmitter, acts as a physiological valve, directing the conduction of nerve impulses in regular circuits and preventing random or chaotic stimulation of nerves.
At a chemical synapse each ending, or terminal, of a nerve fiber (presynaptic fiber) swells to form a knoblike structure that is separated from the fiber of an adjacent neuron, called a postsynaptic fiber, by a microscopic space called the synaptic cleft. The typical synaptic cleft is about 0.02 micron wide. The arrival of a nerve impulse at the presynaptic terminals causes the movement toward the presynaptic membrane of membrane-bound sacs, or synaptic vesicles, which fuse with the membrane and release a chemical substance called a neurotransmitter. This substance transmits the nerve impulse to the postsynaptic fiber by diffusing across the synaptic cleft and binding to receptor molecules on the postsynaptic membrane. The chemical binding action alters the shape of the receptors, initiating a series of reactions.
Once they have been released and have bound to postsynaptic receptors, neurotransmitter molecules are immediately deactivated by enzymes in the synaptic cleft; they are also taken up by receptors in the presynaptic membrane and recycled. This process causes a series of brief transmission events, each one taking place in only 0.5 to 4.0 milliseconds. If the same neurons get fired over and over again, the connections or synapses between them get facilitated and can be activated easily. This forms the basis of human memory and a lot of other mental activities.
Scientific studies of different addictions like alcohol and gambling have shown that in addicts certain brain cells get facilitated for these negative activities, and their synapses continue to get reinforced. These neurons and synapses get so facilitated that as a result, addicts cannot control themselves against these addictions, as these cells keep firing. In other words whatever neurons repeatedly fire in our brain, end up determining our daily life and destiny.
To overcome negative emotions, thoughts and action we need to replace those with positive ones. The month of Ramadhan is to occupy ourselves with remembrance of Allah and charge our neurons with positive and spiritual. We want to charge our brain cells and synapses with Zikr illahi, even in our idle moments and think positive thoughts, facilitating positive synapses and neurons that will determine our fate. No wonder it is said, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become character. Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
To read further in the PDF file: Zikr Illahi