The Concept of Fasting in Religions

Fasting is the practice of abstaining from food, either completely or partially, for a specified period. Fasting is another form of worship found universally in the world religions. Although there are vast differences regarding the mode of fasting and the conditions applied to it, the central idea of fasting is present everywhere. Where it is not mentioned clearly, it is likely that it may gradually have either been discontinued or have petered out through gradual decay in practice.

According to eleventh edition of Encyclopedia Britannica (1911) under the heading of ‘fasting’, “Fasting is of special interest when considered as a discipline voluntarily submitted to for moral and religious ends. As such it is very widely diffused. Its modes and motives vary considerably according to climate, race, civilization and other circumstances; but it would be difficult to name any religious system of any description in which it is wholly unrecognized.”

According to Wikipedia, “Fasting for religious and spiritual reasons has been a part of human custom since pre-history. It is mentioned in the Bible, in the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Qur’an, the Mahabharata, and the Upanishads. Fasting is also practiced in many other religious traditions and spiritual practices.”

According to present day Encyclopedia Britannica online, “Fasting has been practiced from antiquity worldwide by the founders and followers of many religions.”

The Holy Quran states: “O ye who believe, fasting is prescribed for you during a fixed number of days as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may safeguard yourselves against every kind of ill and become righteous.” (2:184)

Traditionally, fasting has been a widely used practice observed for the purpose of purifying the person or of atoning for sins and wrongdoing. Most religions designate certain days or seasons as times of fasting for their adherents. Prayer is supposed to accompany fasting in most religions. Fasting is also an excellent form of training for the physical, moral and spiritual development of man.

Fasting in Islam begins everywhere at the first appearance of dawn, and ends with sunset. During this period one is expected to abstain from all food and drink completely. It is not just physical hunger and thirst that constitute the Muslim fast, but a greater part of the night is thus spent in spiritual exercises which make up the very essence of fasting.

During the day, apart from restraining from food and water, all Muslims are particularly exhorted from vain talk, quarrels and fights, or from any such occupation as is below the dignity of a true believer. All Muslims are expected to spend in the cause of the poor, vulnerable and needy people.

The true purpose of Ramadan, as of all forms of Islamic worship is to draw people closer to Allah and closer to the mankind. It encourages prayers, almsgiving, the doing of other good deeds and refraining from evil giving one power to overcome all evil.

It is also an excellent religious discipline which trains the mind and body to cope with crisis, anger, hunger, thirst, etc. According to one mystic, the secret of life is to speak little, eat little and sleep little. All these disciplines are exercised during the month of fasting.

Throughout history, in almost all religions of the world, fasting has long been promoted as a spiritual means for intensifying prayers and faith. People have fasted as it is an obligation to God, leading to good health and spirituality. Fasting brings great spiritual, mental, emotional and physical health.

Laiq Ahmed Atif

Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta, Ta’Xbiex

About Laiq Ahmed Atif E: Mob: +35679655255
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