Ramadhan is approaching very soon. Turns out, Islam is not the only religion that commands it, but fasting is practiced in various religions, including all the 5 major religions and even by ancient Greeks.
Moses and Jesus fasted for 40 days for spiritual renewal. Mahatma Gandhi fasted 21 days to promote compassion and religious tolerance.
Today, many people (especially) in the West think that fasting is a torture and yet many clinics offer a variety of detox in order to lose weight and clean the body. So maybe practice is not so crazy after all.
Some scientists too have admitted that fasting is therapeutic and can help people recover from many diseases, such as allergies, chronic heads, high blood pressure, inflammatory bowel, diabetes, etc. Fasting can also make our skin, teeth and healthier and it can help us sleep better. And obviously, fasting can be a prevention against obesity.
On the spiritual side, fasting makes us more discipline and also helps us control our greed, lust and it helps to discipline a person.
So below is how fasting commandment is written in various religious scriptures and also from well know ancient Greek characters. Although personally I think some of the explanations, purposes, conditions, and/or results sound a bit strange but I believe in essence fasting is good. Kindly judge for yourself!
Fasting in Buddhism
“Not nakedness, nor matted hair, nor fasting nor sleeping on the ground, neither rubbing the body with dust nor sitting like an ascetic can purify a man who has not solved his doubts.”
(the Buddha in Dhammapada verse 141)
Fasting in Hinduism
“The man who abstains from one meal every day throughout the month called Margasirsha, should with reverence and devotion, feeds a number of Brahmanas (i.e. Hindu priests). By so doing he becomes freed from all his sins. Such a mean becomes endued with prosperity. He becomes endued with energy. In fact, such a person reaps an abundance of harvest from his fields, acquires great wealth and much corn.”
(Yudhistira in Mahabharata)
Fasting in Christianity
“Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
(St. Paul in the New Testament: Book 1 Corinthians 7:5, Bible King James Version)
Fasting in JudeoChristianity (Jewish fasting)
Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers.
(Old Testament, Book of Nehemiah 9:1-2)
Note: the above verses were referred to what happened after the Israelites had been having unlawful intercourse with the heathen around them during the time of Ezra (Jewish scribe and priest) when the Israelites were exiled to Babylonia.
Fasting in Islam
“O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribe for you, as it was prescribed for those before you, so that you may (learn) self restraint.”
(Quran translation 2:183)
Fasting in ancient Greece
“Everyone has a physician inside him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food. But to eat when you are sick is to feed your sickness.”
(Hippocrates – ancient Greek physician, 460 – 370 BCE)
“Instead of using medicine, rather, fast a day.”
(Plutarch – Greek historian, 45 – 120 AD)
In conclusion: maybe all religions are not so different to each other after all. Maybe religion is also not necessarily in conflict with science either. And hopefully by realizing similarities between religions we can respect each other more.
Thank you for reading.
I hope this has been informative to you!