Saturday, 28 May 2016


Fasting is not unique to Muslims. It has been practiced for centuries in connection with religious ceremonies by Christians, Jews, Confucians, Hindus, Taoists, Jains, and others as Allah says:
"O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become righteous." (Quran 2:183). But like other rituals fasting was also altered and corrupted.

Fasting In Primitive Societies:
Fasting was made part of the fertility rites in primitive ceremonies which were held at the vernal and autumnal equinoxes and survived for centuries. Some primitive societies fasted to avert catastrophe or to serve as penance for sin. Native North Americans held tribal fasts to avert threatening disasters. The Native Americans of Mexico and the Incas of Peru observed penitential fasts to appease their gods. Past nations of the Old World, such as the Assyrians and the Babylonians, observed fasting as a form of penance.
Fasting In Judaism and Christianity:
Jews observe fasting as a form of penitence and purification annually on the Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, which corresponds to the tenth of Muharram ('Ashura) of the Islamic calendar. On this day neither food nor drink is permitted.
Early Christians associated fasting with penitence and purification. During the first two centuries of its existence, the Christian Church established fasting as a voluntary preparation for receiving the sacraments of Holy Communion and baptism and for the ordination of priests. Later, these fasts were made obligatory, as other days were subsequently added. In the 6th century the Lenten fast was expanded to 40 days, on each of which only one meal was permitted. After the Reformation, fasting was retained by most Protestant Churches and was made optional in some cases. Stricter Protestants like the Puritans, however, condemned not only the festivals of the Church, but its traditional fasts as well.
In the Roman Catholic Church, fasting may involve partial abstinence from food and drink or total abstinence. The Roman Catholic days of fasting are Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.
In the West, fasting is observed mostly by Episcopalians and Lutherans among Protestants, by Orthodox and Conservative Jews, and by Roman Catholics.

Secular Fasting: The Hunger Strike:
From being an empty ritual, fasting went to another extreme in the West: the hunger strike, a form of fasting, which in modern times has become a political weapon after being popularized by Mohandas Gandhi, leader of Indian struggle for freedom, who undertook fasts to compel his followers to obey his precept of nonviolence.

Fasting In Islam:
Islam has prescribed and retained the ritual of fasting throughout centuries as a means for purifying the soul of a man in order to draw near to his Creator by selfish motives and base desires of self. It has a special status among all the devotional worships because it is difficult to perform. It puts a bridle on the most uncontrolled, savage human emotions. The most unruly human emotions are pride, avarice, gluttony, lust, envy, and anger. These emotions, by their nature are not easy to control, thus a person must strive hard to discipline them. Fasting helps do that.
The Islamic calendar consists of twelve lunar months. Muslims measure their year by the cycles of the moon rather than the sun, so the Muslim lunar year is eleven days shorter than the Christian solar year. Muslims are forbidden to adjust their year by adding an extra month, as the Jews do to keep their lunar calendar in synch with the seasons. Hence, the months of the Muslim year do not relate to the seasons. Each month lasts 29 or 30 days and occurs during different seasons of the year. A new month begins when the evening new moon is sighted. The ninth month is called Ramadan and is dedicated to fasting. It is pronounced Ramazan by Indo-Pakistanis.