O Believers! Fast is prescribed for you as it was for those before you so that you may ward off evil. (Fast) a certain number of days… (Holy Qur’an: Chapter 2, Verses 182-183)
Every year in the ninth lunar month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims around the world abstain from food, drink, vain talk and certain other actions from before sunrise until after sunset.
The Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions all enjoin fasting. Moses observed a fast of forty days at Mount Sinai at the time of the revelation of the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 24:18) Although less common now, it is Jewish tradition to fast when mourning or when in danger. Most practicing Jews still fast on the Day of Atonement and for the one-week commemoration of the destruction of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. Jesus of Nazareth, peace be upon him, also fasted on the Day of Atonement and the forty days of Moses’ fast to ward off Satanic temptation.
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:2)
Many Christians observe a forty-day pre-Easter fast, although now it includes abstention from only certain food items rather than all food and drink. Muslims fast the month of Ramadan and may, optionally, fast on most other days of the year.
The One God prescribes fasting for the faithful; and it has many benefits. Material pleasures can be generalised into food and drink, sexual pleasures, and vanity. Fasting requires abstaining from these, going against the natural instinct of Man to observe the commandment of God.This builds and strengthens a person’s self-control, nearing them to their Creator. Other benefits of fasting include:
- Fasting instills patience, teaches self control and discipline.
- Fasting increases compassion for the less fortunate.
- Fasting builds focus on spirituality and diminishes focus on materialism.
- Fasting has many health benefits.
- Fasting can be atonement for sin and can earn great reward.
- Fasting is part of a strong spiritual and physical renewal plan.
- Fasting commemorates important sacred religious events.
The Muslim fast of the month of Ramadan is a continuation of the long history of fasting in the Abrahamic faiths. The self-improvement benefits of fasting make it an important means of improving one’s faith and practice of religion.
“And men who fast and women who fast…God has prepared for them forgiveness and a vast reward.” ( Holy Qur’an 33:35)