Fasting is observed in all world religions

By: Laiq Ahmed Atif, President Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat Malta – 

Who can understand the importance of food and water more than those who have ever passed through hunger, thirst or any kind of famine during their life time? The month of Ramadan is also an exercise for having such hard and difficult experiences. And these experiences, at one side provide opportunity to reform the spirituality and to increase in the love of God, and on the other, they are also a time to understand the sufferings and problems of those who do not have sufficient food or water for their life; and to develop great feelings for the vulnerable and destitute people of this planet. Indeed, the Ramadan is a clear understanding of the two basic principles of religion – rights of God and rights of people.

Fasting is a form of worship found universally in the world religions; for religious and spiritual reasons it has been a part of human custom since pre-history. Although there are differences regarding the mode of fasting and the conditions applied to it, the central idea of fasting is present everywhere. This also is a clear evidence that how important this way of worship is. Fasting is clearly mentioned in the Holy Bible, in the Holy Quran as well as in the Mahabharata (Hindu Holy Book).

Fasting in Judaism means completely abstaining from food and drink. Traditionally observant Jews fast six days of the year. Fasting is also a very integral part of the Hinduism. Individuals observe different kinds of fasts based on personal beliefs and local customs.

In Christianity, especially Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy, they used to observe a 40-day fast during Lent, a spring period of penitence before Easter, and during Advent, a penitential period before Christmas. Among Roman Catholics the observance has been modified with mandatory fasting only on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday during Lent. Protestant churches generally leave the decision to fast to individual church members.

Islam also emphasis a lot on fasting, and it is obligatory for Muslims to fast one month every year in the month of Ramadan. 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)

The true purpose of fasting is to draw people closer to Allah and closer to mankind. Though normal pursuits and occupations are carried on as usual, the emphasis on moral and spiritual values and concentration on them are intensified, and everything is subordinated to the main purpose. The hearing, the sight, the tongue, the mind are all under stricter control. For instance, not only vain talk, but much talk is also eschewed, so that there should be greater concentration on remembrance of Allah and reflection upon His attributes.

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