Of fasting and benefits

People fasting tend to avoid food in line with religious dogmas. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • Besides fasting enriching the soul, it is good for the body.

Most religions, if not all, have some sort of fasting time during the year, the method of fasting can also vary from one faith to the other, however, the main purpose remains the same: To be able to detach oneself from food or drink during that period.

As a Baha’i, we have just finished our fasting period that was from March 2 to March 20, ending it with a joyous celebration. This is also the same time Christians start their period of lent, that will end with Easter celebrations, it is interesting that this year, Moslems too have started their fasting month of Ramadan early April, this will end with Eid Al Fitr celebrations in the first days of May. Moslem fasting consists of abstaining from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset it is also the same in the Baha’i Faith.

I remember when we moved to live in Europe and we were fasting, my colleagues at work did not understand how I can refrain from eating and drinking for 12 hours, they thought I would die! To their surprise in the afternoons, I was even sharper and full of energy, this is of course due to the heat generated by the fast, and the fact that the body and all its organs are not busy digesting anything and the mind that controls these organs is now free to focus on other matters.

Today, with the latest fashion of intermittent fasting, people are no longer fearing the word fasting and have found out that it’s quite beneficial for the body and can also help in weight loss. This type of fasting includes abstaining from eating from a certain time for a period of 12 to 16 hours, unlike other diets, it does not focus on what to eat, rather on when to eat, it is one notch easier than the traditional fasting because one is allowed to drink water and sugar free drinks.

Going back to the main purpose of fasting prescribed in religions, besides the physical benefits, one understands that this period should also be a time for reflection and bringing oneself to account, a time to feel how the poor and needy survive their days with little, also to learn detachment and self-control, and if only one of these virtues is attained, that is a great personal gain. 

It is also interesting to note that apostles, and true seekers in the path of finding The Promised One, used fasting as means of focusing on their search, fully detached from the material world and in a state of prayer, anticipating the reward of finding the truth. Also in some cultures, when faced with difficulties, people vow to fast for a period of time, if their prayers are answered! Hence fasting comes in so many different ways, it is an action done with sincere humility.