Islam has a number of rituals that are obligatory on Muslims. The five basic pillars of Islam are Faith (Iman), Prayer (Salat), payment of Alms (a tax called Zakat), Fasting in them month of Ramadan and Pilgrimage to Mecca (Hajj). A Muslim who does not follow any of the five pillars is a non-believer and a sinner. Fasting is compulsory in Ramadan on all adult Muslims of sane mind. The idea of fasting is to instill patience and self-control in Muslims and enable them to understand the hunger felt by the needy. Fasting is common in Hinduism as well but it is practiced differently.
Other Muslim rituals include Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha, Khatna and so on. Amongst the numerous Hindu rituals are Karwa Chauth, Diwali and Holy. Fasting in Islam Fasting is called Sawm or Roza in Arabic. The word encompasses abstaining not just from food but also from drinking, smoking, sex and anything that tampers with a person’s purity. During a fast, a Muslim is required to offer all five of his daily prayers and act in a moral way for his fast to be accepted. The idea is to teach Muslims patience, discipline and make them feel the pangs of hunger felt by the poor.
The process involves waking up before sunrise to have Sehri and then offering prayers. Ideally at Sehri, the Muslim eats enough food to help him survive the fast, after which he is required to state his intention to fast in the name of Allah. However if for any reason the person fails to do so then, he can do it till noon the same day. During a fast, the Muslim is said to be in a state of worship. Hence any immoral behavior such as back biting, fighting, lying, giving or taking bribes or cheating makes the fast void. The fast lasts from Fajr, the first prayer of the day before sunrise, to Maghrib when the sun sets.
At Maghrib Muslims break their fasts ideally with dates (a Muslim tradition), water or salt, and then eat food. They call this Iftar. This is an on-going process for the entire month (Budak, 2005). At the end of Ramadan, all Muslims unite in a celebration called Eid-ul-Fitr by visiting each other and indulging in feasts for three days. What is the purpose of Fasting in Islam? Fasting is supposed to teach Muslims self-control (Taqwa) and patience. Additionally it also makes them grateful to God for all his bounties. It is a month spent by Muslims trying to restrain from worldly evil and engage in spiritual conduct.
During Ramadan, the rich and the poor share common ground which helps the former understand and empathize with those who are disadvantaged (Budak, 2005). Who is fasting compulsory for? Fasting is made obligatory on all Muslim males and females from the time they reach puberty and become sane adults. Some adults however are still not liable to fast. These include people who are not physically or mentally fit, those who are travelling beyond fifty miles, the elderly, those who are ill, women undergoing menstruation, and pregnant and breast-feeding women.
Women who miss fasts during menstruation must make up for them after the month of Ramadan is over and they are back to a state of purity (Budak, 2005). When does a Muslim fast become void? If a person deliberately eats or drinks, or puts anything into his mouth, his fast breaks. Other things that break fasts include immoral behavior, skipping daily prayers, vomiting, or any form of sexual activity. Unintentional eating does not break a fast as long as the person realizes his mistake and completes his fast according to the ritual (Budak, 2005).
Punishment for not fasting Fasting is a pillar of Islam. Therefore any Muslim who does not fast and on whom it is obligatory is committing a serious sin. Those who miss fasts for reasons of illness or menstruation in the case of women have to make up for the same number of days as soon as possible. Those who cannot fast during Ramadan must feed a poor person for the same number of days of missed fasts (Budak, 2005). Fasting in Hinduism Fasting is a common ritual amongst the Hindus. It requires ignoring physical needs of the body in return for spiritual gain.
They fast on some specific days of a month, or on set days of the week. Hindus that worship Shiva mostly fast on Mondays while those that are followers of Vishnu fast on Fridays and Saturdays. Some Hindus fast on Thursdays where they unite to hear stories of their god before opening their fasts. The ritual of fasting involves wearing yellow clothes and eating yellow foods. The Hindu women show devotion to banana trees and nurture it. Some Hindus resort to liquid diets during their fasts. Other than that, Hindus fast on religious occasions.
One such occasion is the Karwa Chauth where the women fast for their husbands’ happiness and welfare. The fast breaks when the women see their husbands’ faces in the moonlight through a sieve (Ghosh, 2010). These different ways of performing fasting as a ritual in Hinduism is in sharp contrast to that in Islam which is uniform throughout the Muslims with the exception of minor difference between the two sects: Shi’as and Sunnis. In Islam for instance, men and women both have to fast while in Hinduism it is usually the women who fast for the sake of their husbands’ well being.
What does the Hindu fast involve? Hindu fasts differ slightly from those of Muslims. Hindus fast from sunset to 48 minutes past the next day’s sunset. Restricting oneself to a single meal a day or refraining from eating certain food items also qualifies as fasting for the Hindus. Vegetarians are not allowed to eat or touch animals or their products during their fast, except milk (Ryan, 2005). Like that in Islam, fasting in Hinduism teaches its followers self-control. Moreover it keeps them energetic and healthy. The point is to generate feelings of purity and morality in the Hindus.
Hinduism is of the belief that fasting has a healing and cleansing effect. It helps reduce the level of salt in people’s bodies and make them healthier (Ghosh, 2010). Conclusion Of the many rituals in Islam, fasting is one of the five most important ones. It is one of the pillars of Islam and is obligatory on all Muslims to follow. Fasting in Islam is characterized by a period of continuous fasting during the month of Ramadan in the Islamic calendar. It requires the Muslims to abstain from food, drinks, sexual activities, and any other immoral behavior that might render their fast void.
The Muslim fast starts with Sehri at Fajr or day break when the person expresses his intention to keep a Roza in the name of God. For the next twelve hours approximately, till Maghrib, the Muslim is to exhibit complete self-control over all his activities. He is allowed to break his fast only at sunset, ideally with dates, water or salt. With the exception of children, the elderly, physically disabled or the insane, every adult person who is a Muslim is supposed to fast. In Hinduism the popular tradition of fasting exists as well but in a different way.
To begin with, Hinduism has numerous sects all of whom are devotees to a different god (Ryan, 2005). Henceforth they also have different rituals. Some of them fast only on Thursdays while others fast on Tuesdays. Many Hindu fasting rituals are just applicable to women who keep them for their husbands’ wellbeing. Hindu fasts are not about complete abstinence from food; rather they require the Hindus to refrain from a certain type of food such as meat. Most Hindu fasts allow people to maintain a liquid diet. In Hinduism, fasts are also kept on special occasions such as Dewali and Karwa Chauth.
Thus it can be concluded that fasting is practiced in both religions but in a different manner. In Islam it is a matter of empathizing with the needy while in Hinduism it is mostly kept by women for the welfare of their husbands. References Style for Books Budak, A. (2005) Fasting in Islam & the Month of Ramadan: A Comprehensive Guide. The Light. Ghosh, A. (2010, February 16th). Fasting in Hinduism: What’s the truth behind it? Retrieved May 19th, 2010, from http://www. brighthub. com/health/diet-nutrition/articles/31900. aspx Ryan, T. (2005) The sacred art of fasting: preparing to practice. SkyLight Paths Publishing.