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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
the West, fasting is observed mostly by Episcopalians and Lutherans
among Protestants, by Orthodox and Conservative Jews, and by Roman
Secular Fasting: The Hunger Strike:
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:
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.
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