Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. Fasting is observed in various ways by other religions and belief systems as well, and is considered to be a source of spiritual purification. These religions believed fasting to help in repentance for sins, sanctification, mourning, sacrifice, and improvement of knowledge and command. Apart from religious teachings, most philosophers and even physicians considered fasting to be helpful in healing and therapy.
Here is a short peek at some of the belief systems of the world, to learn how some of these religions and belief systems practice fasting. It is just a quick overview of only a few of fasting practices all around the world.
Fasting is an essential part of the Hindu religion, and is varied in different localities, and depending on the deity one follows. The fasting rules of Hinduism are flexible, with varying lengths of fasting at various times, with total abstinence from food or liquid from sunset to sunrise the next day in some cases, or limiting the number of meals in a day, or abstaining from certain food types. Different devotees fast on the numerous Hindu festivals, while the exact methods and traditions of fasting are usually tied to a Hindu’s cultural background and tradition.
Buddhists monks and nuns are advised to limit their food intake after the noon meal. Other followers also fast by avoiding food after noon, until the next morning once a week. Buddhists believe in taking a middle path, and avoiding any extreme or harsh customs. On the usual meaning of fast, this Buddhist practice can not really fulfill the regular definition of fasting, but rather as a disciplined routine, which is meant to aid meditation and good health
On the other hand Jews are strict in their fasting, and requires complete abstaining from food, drink, and water. Jews fast for six days which are spread out at in the Jewish calendar year. The most auspicious day of the Jewish year is Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), when Jews fast and pray for a period of 25 hours. In addition to the designated days for fasting, Jews may also carry out either personal or collective fasts to seek repentance at the offset of a disaster or calamity, or in order to avert tragedy. It is also common in certain Jewish traditions, for couples to fast on their wedding day before the ceremony takes place.
Though it is not required in most Christian denominations, fasting is practiced by many Christians as an external observance, and is considered as something positive and beneficial. While Christians are not explicitly commanded to fast, Christ Himself fasted for 40 days and nights, and there are also several references to fasting in the New Testament, the most commonly known fasting practice is Lent, which is mainly practiced by Catholics, and is a 40 day partial fast honoring the fast observed by Christ during his temptation in the desert. Generally it is seen with the reduction of meals and the abstinence from meat on Fridays. Followers usually give up some type of food special to them, as it is also seen as a time of mourning in preparation of the crucifixion of Christ.
Fasting is one of the most important actions of the Islamic faith, and is considered the fourth of the Five Pillars of Islam and is obligatory for both adult men and women. Islam explicitly defines fasting rules upon the devout. Followers of the Muslim faith are obliged to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, (which is the month the Quran was revealed on The Prophet Muhammad Peace Be Upon Him), every day from dawn to sunset for 30 days, during which Muslims are to abstain from food, liquid, smoking and sexual interactions.
The Quran also indicates that fasting is a religious practice common to the religions of the past.
“O you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed for those before you so that you may (learn) self-restraint.” (Quran 2:183)