Exploring the Spiritual Significance of Fasting During Ramadan, Lent, and Other Holy Days


Fasting is one of the spiritual beliefs that various Religions do as a part of their devotion and to practice their faith in a serious way. But some people fast but need to know the real message behind these sacrifices.

Britannica defines fasting as abstaining from food, drink, or both for various reasons such as health, religious, ethical, or ceremonial purposes. It can be complete or partial, short or long-term, or intermittent. Fasting has been practiced worldwide by doctors, religious leaders, and their followers, culturally designated people like hunters, candidates for initiation rites, and individuals or groups who protest against perceived violations of social, ethical, or political principles.

Muslims worldwide are beginning the holy month of Ramadan, which involves fasting, increased worship, charity, good deeds, and community building. Similarly, Christians are observing Lent, 40 days of penance and prayer leading up to Easter, the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Fasting is a common practice across religions and is done for various reasons, including spiritual purification and self-discipline.

Various Religions With their Different Reasons for Fast

According to an article in The Hill, in Buddhism, fasting is seen as a way of practicing self-control, and Buddhist monks usually don't consume solid food after noon every day. While in Christianity, fasting is used to purify the body, practice self-control, and save resources to give to the poor.

Pentecostal Christians often fast to experience the Holy Spirit more powerfully. During Lent, which is a 40-day period of penance, prayer, and fasting, many Christians observe the biblical account of Jesus withdrawing to the desert to pray and fast for 40 days. Lent is observed from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday, the day before Easter, which marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Christians often abstain from meat on Fridays during Lent and give up something they see as a personal sacrifice, such as coffee or candy. The Catholic Church allows the followers to eat fish, lobster, and other shellfish on days of abstinence, which is why Friday fish fries are standard in many U.S. communities during Lent.

The concept of fasting is an essential practice in both Hinduism and Islam, but with different approaches and beliefs. In the story of KMBC, in Hinduism, Fasting is a voluntary act of spiritual purification and is not required. Ekadashi, which happens on the eleventh day of every lunar cycle as the moon waxes and wanes, is the fast that is most frequently observed.

Hindus may also fast during festivals or as part of their spiritual discipline, with options of complete or partial fasting or giving up favorite foods for a specific period of time.

In Islam, along with the declaration of faith, prayer, almsgiving, and pilgrimage, fasting is one of the Five Pillars of the faith. Muslims refrain from eating, drinking, and engaging in sexual activity from dawn to dusk as a sign of their piety and devotion to God during the holy month of Ramadan.

Fasting is believed to cultivate gratitude and compassion for the less fortunate, and many look forward to the fast as an act of spiritual rejuvenation and purification.

Islamic scholars also emphasize the importance of donating and helping feed the needy during Ramadan. Fasting is followed by iftar, or breaking of the fast, often in festive gatherings with family and friends. Some exemptions from fasting are allowed, including for the sick.

Also Read: Good Friday 2023: Understanding, Looking Back at the Rich History of Holy Week 

Other Religions that Fasting is A Common Practice

Fasting is also common practice in Jainism, Judaism, and Sikhism, in which, according to KCCI, each has its own unique beliefs and approaches towards fasting.

In Jainism, fasting is considered a way to cleanse the body and soul, including one's bad karma or actions. Fasts could last from one day to more than a month, with options of complete or partial fasting or giving up favorite foods for a specific period of time.

For Judaism, the holiest day of the Jewish calendar, Yom Kippur, involves a 25-hour fasting period coupled with prayers for forgiveness. During this day of atonement, Israeli life grinds to a halt as the faithful fast and hold intensive prayers of atonement. Businesses shut down, roads empty out, and even radio and TV stations go silent.

In contrast, Sikhism does not consider fasting as a meritorious act. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, believed that "truth" or "right action" was superior to fasting, penance, or other austerities.

Related Article: Observing Ash Wednesday: A Guide to Lent for Catholics and Christians