Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Fasting for the sake of God

The month of fasting has began for muslims all over the world. In Islamic fasting one can not eat, drink and have intercourse from sunrise until sunset. So generally people take food before sunrise and again break the fast after the sun set. And this fasting will last for 30 days or so. All adult muslims are prescribed to fast in this one month time.

Fasting is prescribed in all religion:
The Final Testament states: "O, you who believe fasting is prescribed to you, as it was prescribed to those before you that you may acquire self-restraint." (Al-Qur'an 2:183)

"The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you; and (He desireth) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful." (Al-Quran 2:185)

Fasting have different levels of significance.

Self Control:
One level is that it teaches self control. Human being is essentially a Spiritual being who is far more than just flesh and body. Fasting is something that put less emphasis on body and its need but on soul. The Spirit doesn’t need food. So fasting is an approach to teach us that. As Jesus said, "Man shall not live by bread alone." (Matt 4:4). When we practice self control of restraining ourself from food and drinks it gives more freedom.

Prophet also states that fasting is a shield, an armor protecting the believer from sinful acts. "Satan runs in the circulatory system of the son of Adam in the same way blood circulates in our system; so tighten his passages with hunger." (Bukhari/Muslim)

Consciousness of God:
On another level although one can eat behind another person, but since fasting is for God and God sees everything, so he who fasts doesn’t take any food or drink anything. It is a lesson to remind that God sees every action of us. Consciousness of God is practiced with fasting for the simple reason that, when you fast, you become weak for the lack of nourishment, which means your cravings are diminished. With diminished cravings, the sins are greatly lessened, because there is no energy to fuel them, praise be to God. When sin is lessened, we move more towards our originality.

It teaches man the principle of sincere Love: because when he observes Fasting he does it out of deep love for God. And the man who loves God truly is a man who really knows what love is.

Social aspect:
Fasting has some social aspect as well. Since all observing muslims fast in this month together, there is a great bond. Generally people break fast together, in family or in mosque together. It is a good practice to be together.

The month of fasting is a sacred month which encourages all to ask more forgiveness, to perform more prayers. It helps the heart to be more tune with God.

Fasting is something for which God Himself will give reward. As Prophet describe God’s promise on this matter, "All services of the son of Adam are for him except fasting. It is for Me, and I will reward him for it." What could be more rewarding than that?
Fasting also provides man with a transparent soul, a clear mind and a light body.

Not only Muslims fast:
Fasting has been there in practice in all religions and the underlying principle is the same. To teach self control and to teach spirituality.

Thus did Prophets fast:

We hear the Prophet David say: "I humbled myself with fasting;" (Ps 35:13),
"I wept and chastened my soul with fasting" (Ps 69:10), and
"My knees are weak through fasting." (Ps 109:24).
King David also fasted when his son was sick and pleaded with God for the child" lying "all night on the ground" (2 Sam 12:16).
The Prophet Daniel fasted (Dan 9:3) and so did the Prophet Ezekiel (Ezek 4:9).
We hear that Nehemiah fasted when he heard that "The wall of Jerusalem is also broken down, and its gates are burned with fire." (Neh. 1:3,4). Thus did Ezra, the scribe and priest, fasting and calling upon the whole population to fast. (Ezra 8:2 1).
The prophetess Anna "did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day." (Luke 2:3 7).

Jesus Said: "When you fast, do not look somber 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." (Gospel of Matthew 6:16-18)

Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus all religion have fasting as an integral part of religious spirituality and practice. For fasting across religion, click here: http://www.beliefnet.com/features/fasting_chart.html
Also, http://www.abc.net.au/religion/stories/s939883.htm
The Bahai Fasting: http://www.safnet.com/bahai/docs/fasting.html
Buddhist perspective of fasting
http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma9/fasting.html

More on Islamic fasting: http://www.islamic-paths.org/Home/English/Discover/Pillars/Sawm/Fasting_in_Islam.htm
Purpose of Fasting in Islam: http://www.tolueislam.com/Bazm/Mansoor/MA_LT_06.htm


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