Thursday, August 12, 2010

Individual and cultural fasting

Now that we're having the second day of muslims annual fasting month Ramadan, I decided to dedicate one post for the subject as fasting is touching Christians as well. And because my fiancé comes from Islamic culture I'd like to highlight Ramadan especially today to respect him and his friends. Anyway, fasting was set to Christianity for 40 days before Easter in 300 AC and before that we used to do it also on Wednesdays and Fridays. We Protestants do it seldom anyway, but Roman Catholics and Orthodox still practice it. In Orthodox Church fasting means avoiding certain food ingredients and avoiding to hurt others by words and deeds. It also means separating from those ways and manners that separate human from God. They do it for spiritual growing and achieving similarity to God. They fast also when preparing themselves for a great churchy celebration. In Catholic Church fasting means days when according to church they must decrease their daily eating for one full meal and to two small ones as a separation from abstinence which means refusal from eating meat especially on Fridays before Easter. Because the reformation of Luther criticized fasting as an outer action that can't cause salvation we Protestants don't do it often, at least not for religious reasons. In Judaism they fast in seven days of Jewish calendar and five of them are so called "smaller fasting days". The holiest day of Judaism is jom kippur and it's the second of those most important fasting days. In Buddhism there's no actual fasting but in the monasteries of some schools they eat only one meal a day and after noon they don't eat anything. In the greatest days of celebration laymen following these trends don't eat after noon. They want to set the all afternoon free for practising religion. In Hinduism they practice religious fasting in ekadasi which is the 11th day of every Moon's half section. In strictly followed fasting time they don't eat or drink and it begins from the sunset of previous day until the sunrise of the next day.


Ramadan is the 9th month of Islamic hijra calendar. Its most important event is religious fasting, saum , during which healthy adult muslims eat only in the dark daytime. Even drinking, smoking and sexual interaction is forbidden at light time. Fasting during Ramadan is one of the 5 pillars of Islam so it's one of the most important ways of practicing religion. When fasting muslims gets closer to God by giving up things they enjoy. This brings out their stable devotion to God. Believers know that God loves them when they're ready to give in earthly pleasures for God. Fasting is also more than refusal of food and drink: it also means giving up falsic words and deeds, inappropriate talk, arguing and fighting. So fasting helps to improve good behavior. Fasting teaches also feelings of brotherhood and solidarity when muslim experience how does it feels like being in lack and hunger as his brother. During Ramadan muslims usually work only in forenoon. After the end of fasting they'll celebrate Id al-Fitr feast which takes place in the next sawwal month's 3 first days. During the celebration they may hand gifts for friends and relatives, visit friends, buy a new dress and eat good food. Because Islamic calendar isn't a clear moon calendar Ramadan doesn't take place every time in the same season but in 30 years it will circle around all the seasons. This year Ramadan started in the August 11th and will end at September 9th.

Health causes of fast

The medical pros and cons of fasting aren't well-known but it's said to have beneficial influence on intestines' action. For example in Europe and USA we fast for health reasons more than spiritual ones as we want to stay in good fit and control overweight. But for remaining results you should have permanently healthier and lighter diet. Even before important medical operation you have to fast, because it effects crucially in the results. So what happens in our bodies during fasting? The body uses first as its sources of energy glycogen storage of muscles and liver and fat. If fast is a longer-term one body begins first to produce ketone compounds from fat for nervous system and begins to disperse muscles' protein for a source of energy. Fasts held for healthy reasons are usually water, juice or soup fasts. Water fast is the worst possible option from health's point of view, because body bears it healthy just few days. Otherwise from juice and soup fasts body gets anyway some sugars and other nutrients too to survive. Fast isn't recommended for old people, expecting mothers and small children.

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