In Islam, fasting for a month is an obligatory practice during the holy month of Ramadan, from fajr (dawn), until maghrib (sunset). Muslims are prohibited from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse while fasting. Fasting in the month of Ramadan is one of the Pillars of Islam, and thus one of the most important acts of Islamic worship. By fasting, whether during Ramadan or other times, a Muslim draws closer to their Lord by abandoning the things they enjoy, such as food and drink. This makes the sincerity of their faith and their devotion to God (Arabic:Allah) all the more evident.
The Qur'an states that fasting was prescribed for those before them (i.e., the Jews and Christians) and that by fasting a Muslim gains taqwa, which can be described as the care taken by a person to do everything God has commanded and to keep away from everything that He has forbidden. Fasting helps prevent many sins and is a shield with which the Muslim protects him/herself from jahannam (hell).
Muslims believe that fasting is more than abstaining from food and drink. It also includes abstaining from any falsehood in speech and action, from any ignorant and indecent speech, and from arguing and fighting, and lustful thoughts. Therefore, fasting helps develop good behavior.
Fasting also inculcates a sense of fraternity and solidarity, as Muslims feel and experience what their needy and hungry brothers and sisters feel. However, even the poor, needy, and hungry participate in the fast. Moreover, Ramadan is a month of giving charity and sharing meals to break the fast together.
While fasting in the month of Ramadan is considered wajib (obligatory), Islam also prescribed certain days for non-obligatory, voluntary fasting, such as:
- each Monday and Thursday of a week
- the 13th, 14th, and 15th day of each lunar month
- six days in the month of Shawwal (the month following Ramadan)
- the Day of Arafat (9th of Dhu al-Hijjah in the Hijri (Islamic calendar))
- the Day of Ashuraa (10th of Muharram in the Hijri calendar), with one more day of fasting before or after it (Sunnis only)
Although fasting is wajib, exceptions are made for persons in particular circumstances:
- Children under the age of 10; some parents will encourage their children fast for only three hours a day once they reach four years old, so the children get used to fasting.
- Serious illness; the days lost to illness will have to be made up after recovery.
- If one is traveling, since the fajr and duhr' time will change; but one must make up any days missed upon arriving at one's destination.
- Women who are pregnant and too physically weak.
- A woman during her menstural period; although she must count the days she missed and make them up at the end of Ramadan.
In the Bahá'í Faith, fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset during the Bahá'í month of `
Along with obligatory prayer, it is one of the greatest obligations of a Bahá'í. The Guardian of the Bahá'í Faith, Shoghi Effendi, explains: "It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires."
Fasting is a very integral part of the Hindu religion. Individuals observe different kinds of fasts based on personal beliefs and local customs. Some are listed below.
- Some Hindus fast on certain days of the month such as Ekadasi or Purnima.
- Certain days of the week are also set aside for fasting depending on personal belief and favorite deity.
- Thursday fasting is very common among the [[Hindu][Hindus]] of northern
. On Thursdays devotees listen to a story before breaking their fast. On the Thursday fasters also worship Vrihaspati Mahadeva or Jupiter. They wear yellow clothes, and meals with yellow colour are preferred. Women worship the banana tree and water it. Food items are made with yellow-coloured ghee. India
- Fasting during religious festivals is also very common. Common examples are Maha Shivaratri or the 9 days of Navratri (which occurs twice a year in the months of April and October/November during Vijayadashami just before Diwali, as per the Hindu calendar). Karwa Chauth is a form of fasting unique to the northern part of
where married women undertake a fast for the well-being, prosperity, and longevity of their husbands. The fast is broken after the wife views the moon through a sieve after sunset. India
Methods of fasting also vary widely and cover a broad spectrum. If followed strictly, the person fasting does not partake any food or water from the previous day's sunset until 48 minutes after the following day's sunrise. Fasting can also mean limiting oneself to one meal during the day and/or abstaining from eating certain food types and/or eating only certain food types. In any case, even if the fasting Hindu is non-vegetarian, he/she is not supposed to eat or even touch any animal products (i.e. meat, eggs)on a day of fasting.
The "acceptable fast" is discussed in the biblical Book of Isaiah, chapter 58:3-7, and is discussed metaphorically. In essence, it means to abstain from satisfying hunger or thirst, and any other lustful needs we may yearn for. The blessings gained from this are claimed to be substantial. Christian denominations that practice this acceptable fast often attest to the spiritual principles surrounding fasting and seek to become a testament to those principles. The opening chapter of the Book of Daniel, vv. 8-16, describes a partial fast and its effects on the health of its observers. Fasting is a practice in several Christian denominations or other churches. Other Christian denominations do not practice it, seeing it as a merely external observance, but many individual believers choose to observe fasts at various times at their own behest, and the Lenten fast observed in Anglicanism is a forty day partial fast to commemorate the fast observed by Christ during his temptation in the desert.