The Beauty of Fasting
By Abraham Khoureis, Ph.D.
Is there a beauty in fasting? “How could that be and hunger is upon and befalling us,” another replied.
Fasting defined as the act of a religious obligation where the followers abstain from all or some food and drink, and other pleasurable sexual acts.
Based on the religious story that since the times of Adam, the Creator of man commanded him to fast. The command of fasting evolved with the evolving of man and her / his capacity and ability to perform and conform.
Religious traditions share that Moses, Jesus and Muhammad fasted for an average of 30-40 straight days from dawn to sunset and broke their fast at night.
Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days, and the Holy command for fasting evolved to 30 days during the times of Muhammad and until our day. In the month of Ramadan, a Muslim fasting holy month in which millions of followers of the Islamic faith abstain from all food, drink and sexual desires from dawn to sunset.
Fasting in our modern times
Fasting according to the Jewish faith:
Yom Kippur is the only known and publicized day that Jews supposed to fast for 24 hours in atonement of sins and Tisha B’Av, which is an annual fast day to commemorate the destruction of both the First Temple by the Babylonians and the Second Temple by the Romans.
In today’s Jewish tradition, a practicing Jew must fast for 25 sporadic days, at different events for different reasons.
Fasting according to the Christian faith:
Although history shared with us that Jesus fasted for 40 straight days. In today’s teaching of Christianity, we only find the command of fasting, but the period of fasting is not determined (Luke 5:33-35).
The 24 hours fasting period that is practiced today by millions of Christians for a day of atonement of sins is a practice derived from Paul directly: fasting is required and it is an individual choice and concern (Deuteronomy 9:9; 1 Kings 19:8; Luke 4:2).
Fasting according to the Islamic faith:
In the Islamic Holy Book, the Quran, G-od (Allah), as He commanded Moses and Jesus to fast, He also commanded Muhammad and his followers to fast for 30 days from dawn to sunset. A religious practice that has been continuing non-stop for over 1,438 years.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, and from dawn to sunset (averaging 12-16 hours), Muslims refrain from food, water, sexual acts, and evil thoughts and concentrate on prayers and cultivating their inner and spiritual selves.
As in all religious traditions, sick individuals, pregnant women, women during menstruation, elderly people are prohibited from fasting.
Fasting according to non-religious doctrines
Buddhism: According to the Buddhist tradition, with the help of meditation and fasting, Shakyamuni reached full enlightenment. After achieving that and in order to show full control of his outer body, he mediated and fasted for forty-nine straight days.
Hinduism: Fasting plays an important role in the Hindu doctrine and belief system. Fasting is required on several days of the month: Ekadasi, Pradosha, or Purnima. Due to the existence of multiple deities (Idols) in the Hindu faith, some followers of Hinduism fast some days of the week as well.
Sikhism: The Sikh tradition command fasting only for medical reasons, otherwise, it is not referenced.
Modern Diet: In today’s non-religious communities people have a regulated type of fasting, they call it, Diet.
During the diet process, the individuals restrict the type of food they consume and the duration they eat. The purpose of diet is to lose weight, or, for medical reasons.
So, the question remains, is there a beauty in fasting?
To answer this question accurately, we have to place the process and act of fasting into its own perspective: what is the purpose of fasting? And why God the Maker of the human being commanded fasting as an obligatory act of worship on His creation?
In all religious, secular and non-traditional accounts, the purpose of fasting is a healthy approach to regulate the human body. The organs of this machine, vehicle, vessel, body (call it what you wish) have to rest. And the act of fasting provides the opportunity for this needed resting period.
What needs to be established is the “real” resting period this human vessel needs. Is it 49 days with no food or water? Is it 40 days? How about 30 days? The right answer for the required period of rest is the balance of all extremes: not a day, or few days, and not 49 days either.
The smart approach is that you select a period were the organs of your body can rest, but the cells are not deprived. Fasting during the day and eating at night is a winner approach, what remains to be selected are the days.
Regardless if you were religious or not, and according to your faith, or not, select the resting period from the available choices and what best works for you.
For the religious individual who fasted and conformed to the fasting guidelines of His Maker, yes, there may be a beauty in fasting. Yet, REALLY, there are other health, personal, and humane reasons of why fasting should be practiced.
On the health front, you have given the organs of your body the needed rest to rejuvenate and perform with efficiency.
On the personal front, fasting will train you to have self-control, which will mutate to all aspects of your decisions as a leader and in your personal life.
On the humane front, when you fast you will be hungry by choice, a reminder of the suffering felt by the deprived and the poor. And hopefully, because of your fasting and feeling the pain of the hunger they suffer, you will act to assist them in any means possible, A human act that pleases man and His Creator.
In reality, God’s purpose of commanding fasting on his followers is to better them and the societies they live in. Individuals who sincerely fast are individuals who help themselves to become healthier and kind by understanding, helping, and improving the well-being of others.
To answer the the above question,
Yes, there is a beauty in fasting and let us all practice it and enjoy it.
About the author: Dr. Abraham Khoureis is a Humanist and Disability Rights Advocate. Follow his blog by subscribing at DrAbeKhoureis.com