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 or drink. In science, this is called an Absolute Dry Fasting. Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and is prescribed in the Quran, Surah Al-Baqarah 183-187.
Fasting beyond food and drink
It is important to understand that Ramadhan fasting is more than just avoiding food and drinks, but also refrain from sex, long baths or even picking the nose. Ramadan is the month of submission, where Muslims will perform prayers in the night to worship Allah. It is time to reflect on attitude, spirituality and practising self-discipline. Another main reason for fasting is to build empathy, especially to those in poverty and has little access to food. Fasting without conscience is like doing something without thinking, thus losing its value. It is best to be mentally and spiritually aware to fully appreciate the values of fasting.
Some Muslim fast but forget to control their anger. Some complaint more when they are fasting, losing patience and letting out a bad attitude. But, 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”Sahih Muslim Hadeeth
Fasting across religions
It is mentioned in Surah Al-Baqarah verse 183, that 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 by all mankind 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
Question is, 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 or 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 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, 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 during the eating window. Most importantly, hydrate.5