Ramadan is the month where all Muslims in the world, Sunni or Shia, fasts for a whole month. The Sunni will fast from dawn to dusk, while Shia will break their fast a bit later when the sky is completely dark. Within the timeframe, Muslims cannot eat, drink, have sex, long baths or even pick their nose. Some people would call this as Absolute Dry Fasting. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and is prescribed in the Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah 183-187 as below:
O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self-restraint, (183)
(Fasting) for a fixed number of days; but if any of you is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed number (Should be made up) from days later. For those who can do it (With hardship), is a ransom, the feeding of one that is indigent. But he that will give more, of his own free will,- it is better for him. And it is better for you that ye fast, if ye only knew. (184)
Ramadhan is the (month) in which was sent down the Qur’an, as a guide to mankind, also clear (Signs) for guidance and judgment (Between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting, but if any one is ill, or on a journey, the prescribed period (Should be made up) by days later. Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put to difficulties. (He wants you) to complete the prescribed period, and to glorify Him in that He has guided you; and perchance ye shall be grateful. (185)
When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way. (186)
Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you, and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast Till the night appears; but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are Limits (set by) Allah: Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint. (187)
Fasting beyond food and drink
If you participate in fasting, it is important to understand that it is more than just avoiding food and drinks. Ramadan is the month of submission, where Muslims will perform prayers in the night to worship Allah. It is the time to reflect on our attitude and spirituality, gaining self-discipline. Another main reason of fasting is to be more empathetic of those in poverty and has little access to food. Fasting without conscience is like doing something physical without mental and emotional support. It is best to be mentally and spiritually aware, to fully appreciate the values of fasting.
I see a lot of Muslim don’t eat and drink, but forget that we should control our anger. Some of us complaint more when we are fasting. We lose our patience and let out bad attitude. Remember this quote:
“Fasting is not merely abstaining from eating and drinking. Rather, it is also abstaining from ignorant and indecent speech. So if anyone abuses you or behaves ignorantly to you, then say: I am fasting, I am fasting” (Muslim)
Fasting beyond Islam
As said in verse 183, Islam is not the only religion that promotes fasting. In fact, fasting has long been practiced, as early as religions have been around (and that is beyond recorded history). Fasting is experienced not just by Muslims, but to other people around the globe from different religions.
Did you know? The oldest surviving religious text is the Pyramid Texts composed in Ancient Egypt in 2494–2345 BCE. Just like Muslims, ancient Egyptians also fast to uphold the moral law and training the human spirit to exercise self control.¹
Is all fast the same? Apparently not, because “fasting” is a diverse concept. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, fasting is abstinence from food or drink or both for health, ritualistic, religious, or ethical purposes. The abstention may be complete or partial, lengthy, of short duration, or intermittent.² So the rules and methods vary according to different beliefs and teachings. Some fast by not speaking (like the monk you might have seen in the movie Hangover), but in this post, we’re focusing on the abstinence from food and/or drink.
Alright. So how, why and when do everyone else fast?
|RELIGION||HOW THEY FAST||WHY THEY FAST||WHEN THEY FAST|
|Buddhist||Fasting usually means abstaining from solid food, with some liquids permitted.||A method of purification. Theravadin and Tendai Buddhist monks fast as a means of freeing the mind. Some Tibetan Buddhist monks fast to aid yogic feats, like generating inner heat.||All the main branches of Buddhism practice some periods of fasting, usually on full-moon days and other holidays. Vinaya monks do not eat each day after the noon meal.|
|Hindu||Fasting may involve 24 hours of complete abstinence from any food or drink, but is more often an elimination of solid foods, with an occasional drink of milk or water.||A way to enhance concentration during meditation or worship; purification for the system; sometimes considered a sacrifice.||Fasting is commonly practiced on New Moon days and during festivals such as Shivaratri, Saraswati Puja, and Durga Puja (also known as Navaratri). Women in North India also fast on the day of Karva Chauth.|
|Catholic||Two small meals and one regular meal are allowed; meat is forbidden.Some still believe in complete abstinence from food and drink.||There are many reasons given in the Bible for fasting. It is seen as an act of sacrifice that reminds Christians of God and through fasting, while the flesh is denied comfort, the spirit is strengthened.||Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, all Fridays in Lent. For many centuries, Catholics were forbidden to eat meat on all Fridays until the mid-1960s|
|Judaism||Completely abstaining from food and drink including water. Sexual relations are also forbidden on major fast days.||Atonement for sins and/or special requests to God.||On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, eating and drinking are forbidden for a 25-hour period, from sundown to sundown. On the other fast days, eating and drinking are forbidden only from sunrise to sundown.|
Atheists Fast too cuz it’s Science!
This may come as a surprise to you, but a lot of people do intermittent fasting on a daily basis for health and spirituality reasons, beyond religion. This WeFast group even fast for 36 hours (water fast) and they do it 44-48 weeks a year!
There are a lot of research on intermittent fasting that prove the benefits of fasting such as reducing inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI.[*][*] However, there is still little research on Dry vs. Wet Fasting. Most Ramadan fasting research have positive result on the comparison of pre-Ramadan and Ramadan analysis, but there need to be more research done with better constant variable.
Did you know? Limited fluid intake pushes your body to burn more fat since fat can be used to produce metabolic water. For every 100 grams of fat, your body can make 107-110 grams of water, compared to 60g from carbs and just 42g of water from protein.4
Getting the Best Health out of Fasting
Based on a few articles like this one, it is said that dry fasting helps to clear any inflammation in the body faster than water fasting. Inflammation cannot thrive in dry conditions and that’s why dry fasting is effective when dealing with inflammation. The fastest way to lose weight is through dry fasting because our bodies start utilizing fat reserves by getting water from such fat hence reducing the amount of fats in the body. It reduces the amount of toxins in body tissues to promote regeneration of tissues. Dry fasting is the best option to go for if clearing the digestive tract is the priority.
As I said earlier, it is important that we fast consciously. Watch out our food intake during the eating window. Try not to drink sweet drinks, eat too many carbs and have a decent amount of good fats in your meal. Most importantly, hydrate during the night.5