Fasting is an integral part of many religious traditions including the top three: Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Islam has the month of Ramadan as its most important fasting period. Judaism has Yom Kippur, and Christianity has Good Friday and Ash Wednesday.
For at least fifteen centuries, Muslims have looked skyward in the ninth lunar month for a crescent moon to signal the start of Ramadan. Then with the exception of the infirmedall are expected to fast for the next 29 to 30 days. They are required to abstain from food, drink including water, smoking, intimate relations, and anything that would distract them from reconnecting with Allah or God. They also submit to extended prayer time. At night, families enjoy Iftaar or breaking of the fast with a hearty meal. This meal can be shared with community which may include non-Muslims.
Ramadan ends with huge celebrations. www.worldmuslimcongress.com reports that Muslims extend forgiveness and open their hearts to everyone at this time. They greet each other with the words, “Eid Mubarak” and hug three times: “I am your friend. You are my friend. Together we are friends.” The fortunate also share their wealth with the less fortunate.
According to Rivka C. Berman of www.mazornet.com, Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement is the day on the Jewish calendar when the Books of Judgment are closed. It is also the day Jews celebrate Moses’ return from Mount Sinai with the tablets of commandments. Unless infirmed, pregnant or younger than nine, Jews must refrain from food, drink, cleansing, wearing leather and covered shoes, work, and intimate relations for 25 hours. Confession and atonement for sins are included in prayer. Jews have a total of seven fast days on their calendar.
Good Friday, the last Friday of the Christian Lenten season, Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and death are observed. www.churchyear.net writes that on this day and on Ash Wednesday (which signals the start of the holy Lenten season) Christians with the exception of the infirmed, those younger than 18 and older than 59, are allowed one full meatless meal. They can drink water, juice, coffee or tea throughout the fast. Some denominations as Catholicism expect followers to give up television and radio especially between the hours of noon and three which are believed to be the hours leading up to Jesus’ death. Various methods of prayer are also used to pay homage to Christ. The Good Friday custom dates back to the fourth century.
The common thread of the fast is to focus more on the divine and less on the material with hopes of improving one’s life and reaping spiritual rewards. Islam expects Muslims to reflect on their condition. If they are allowing evil, greed, anger, hate to consume them, Ramadan is the time for purging and charity. Yom Kippur gives Jews the opportunity to be remorseful and to vow to do better. Good Friday allows Christians to remember that Jesus sacrificed himself for the sins of humanity. Therefore, they should make every effort to follow His simple creed: Love God and love their neighbor as themselves. Spiritual rewards may not be granted without these reformations.
“Ramadan Traditions.” www.worldmuslimcongress.blogspot.com.
Rivka C. Berman, “Yom Kippur.” www.mazornet.com.
“All About Good Friday.” www.churchyear.net.