By S. Arshad, New Age Islam
22 May 2018
The month of Ramazan is practiced as the
month of fasting in Islam. Thirty days of fasting from sunrise to sunset has
been ordained in Islam. The Quran says that fasting increases piety and
spiritual happiness. It develops a sense of physical and sensual sacrifices for
attaining closeness to God.
But fasting is not practiced by Muslims
alone. Fasting as a means of attaining spiritual elevating and piety was also
prescribed in all the religions revealed by God. The Quran says,
“Oh you who believe! Fasting is prescribed to
you as it was prescribed to those before you, that you many learn piety and
The holy Quran says this to Muslims to
impress upon them the fact that this ritual of fasting was not ordained to them
only. Earlier religious communities too had been ordained to suffer this
hardship for their own good. The Quran then goes on to explain why fasting was
ordained to men.
“Fasting is prescribed for you as it was
prescribed for those before you, that you may attain Taqwa." (2:183)
This makes the fact clear that all those
religious communities that practice fasting as a religious duty belong to the
category or revealed religions. Apart from the Quran, the Bible also mentions
fasting by different prophets as also by Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ once fasted
for forty days and forty nights.
fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Mathew 4:2)
The Bible also asks believers not to do
fasting to show people their piety and demonstrate hypocrisy. Just as the Quran
enjoins the Muslims to do fasting only to attain Taqwa. The Bible says,
fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces
to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth; they have received their
reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so
that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your
Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will
reward you.”(Mathew 6: 16-18)
Prophet Moses also fasted for forty days
when he had gone up Mount Sinai to receive tablets. Moses says about his own
“When I went
up the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant
that the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty
nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.” (Deuteronomy 9:9)
This statement is corroborated by the
Quran. Verse 142 of Surah Al Araf says that God ordained Moses to fast for
forty days before getting the Shariah for his Ummah (community).
The Bible also mentions fasting done by
Prophet Daniel for three weeks during which he abstained from meat, wine and
days I, Daniel, was mourning for three weeks.
I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint
myself at all, for the full three weeks. (Daniel 2:3)
The Bible also mentions fasting by Prophet
Elijah for forty days and nights when he was fleeing the nation of Israel who
had killed many prophets.
These are mentions of some of the prophets
who did fasting to attain God’s pleasure. Fasting was also done while
performing some important religious duty as Moses fasted while receiving the
tablets from God on Mount Sinai.
Hinduism also has fasting as one of its
religious rituals. In Hinduism, fasting is ordained on different festivals or
religious events. Fasting among Hindus is for half a day, one day or longer and
during fasting, they can drink water or have fruit. When breaking their fast
they are advised not to have non-vegetarian food as it kills the purpose of
fasting. They are advised to break their fasting with rice, juice or fruit.
mention fasting as the means of pleasing God. In Vedas, fasting is mentioned as
Vrat. In Madhayandin Yajurveda, verse 1.5 states that the Fire God is the ruler
of the Vrat.
Among the Muslims, the fasting is only to
fulfil the religious ordainment. So after breaking the fast, they go berserk,
devouring meat and other heavy food. Even in the Sehri, most of the Muslims
eat non-vegetarian food and other delicacies so that they do not feel hungry
during the day.
Manichaeism, an old religion practiced in
the modern Iran region also had fasting as a religious ritual. Encyclopaedia
“In Manichaeism, fasting was probably
introduced by Mani himself. While there is considerable evidence of the
Manichean fasts (surveyed in Henning, pp. 146-64), exact details remain
sketchy. Manichean doctrine proposed that a portion of the spirit or light of Zurvan,
the father of greatness or high god, had become trapped in matter created by Ahriman
the source of evil and corporeality.
Fasting served as a means of limiting the
transfer of this good, but entrapped, spirit through a series of evil corporeal
incarnations. An important tenet, that pertaining to the so-called seal
(Manichean Middle Persian Mohr) of the mouth, urged strict control over
consumption. The clergy (the elect) or Dēndārān (bearers of religion)
were required to abstain from consuming meat at all times and from any type of
sexual activity. They also were expected to fast on Mondays.
general, Manichean clerics fasted during the daylight hours, eating one meal of
vegetables and fruits after sunset. The laity or Niyōšāgān (hearers)
fasted each Sunday until sunset. Unlike clerics, they could eat meat (believed
to contain much trapped spirit), although this practice was discouraged. Five
(sometimes perhaps seven) fasts of two-day durations were observed by the
community each year; these particular fasts seem to have been correlated with Yimki
or prayer periods.
most important communal fast took place during the thirty days preceding the
vernal equinox, and culminated in the Bēma festival with confession of sins.
This prolonged daytime fast included the fourth and fifth Yimki, with
the final prayer period commemorating Mani’s demise while in the custody of
Sasanian authorities (Boyce, p.12).
However, Zoroastrianism does not prescribe
fasting as a means of spiritual growth and purity of mind though the religious
practices and beliefs in Zoroastrianism are similar to Islam. It may be that
texts about fasting were removed in later period.
term Rozah also comes from Manichean term Rozag meaning fasting and so
in the Ajami (non-Arab) world, Roza instead of the Arabic Saum is used.
These observations of fasting in different
religious communities show that all the communities having fasting as religious
duty are revealed religions. Their teachings might have been distorted over
time but indeed they belong to the category of revealed religions. The Quran
gives testimony to this fact. Different religions had different ways of
fasting. In some religions, ways of fasting were distorted and were directed
towards deities and false gods but the presence of ritual of fasting in them
hint towards the fact that originally they were followers of prophets of God
and revealed religions.
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