From Ramadan To Lent: Why Fasting Is More Common Than You Think

Ramadan is just around the corner, so gird your loins and light your lambs, literally and figuratively. To endure the hardships of fasting and going on about our day with no food, water, and most difficult of all, no profanity! It’s sad that only we Muslims have to endure all of that for an entire month every year, right? Wrong, it is well-known that other religions, Abrahamic or not have the practice of fasting as one of their pillars to be a part of the religion. But why is that? How did that specific practice end up in all our lives no matter where we are from or what we believe in? 

People of The Book 

People who follow any of the three Abrahamic religions, especially in the MENA region might not always see eye to eye with our attitude of an eye for an eye. But Judaism, Christianity, and Islam sometimes feel like they’re borderline identical. And that’s exactly the case with fasting.

Mentioning only the more well-known fastings here, in Judaism, there are six main days of fasting. Two days for full fasting are known as “Yom Kippur” or the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. And “Tisha B’Av” or the ninth of Av. the two major fasting days last for 25 hours with no eating, drinking, and other restriction that vary with every fasting. 

In Christianity the most famous fasting in Lent, typically observed in Roman Catholicism, lasts for 46 days it starts on Ash Wednesday and ends on Palm Saturday or Sunday depending on different things. 

In Islam, the holy month of Ramadan in the Islamic Calendar is observed for fasting, refraining from eating, drinking, and any other consumption. 


Other religions also have fasting embedded in their practices, in Hinduism for example, the most commonly observed fast, Ekadashi, is approximate twice a month, on the eleventh day of each ascending and descending moon. Also, The celebration at the beginning of the year, in honor of Shiva, is another important occasion. And, during the months of July and August, many Hindus eat a vegetarian diet and fast on Mondays and Saturdays until the evening.

In Indian Mahayana Buddhists practiced the abstention of food afternoon as other Indian Buddhists. They sometimes had their own unique fasting practices. One of the most popular of these was a one-day fast associated with the cult of Amoghapāśa. An avatar or reincarnation of Buddha. 

Chinese Buddhist practice is termed Zhaijie (eight-fold fast), one of the most important forms of fasting historically. During it, a person was expected to avoid all meat, and fish, this includes not eating afternoon. The duration of the fast varied; common forms were a six-day fast, a three-day fast, and a nine-day fast. 

In the Japanese Buddhist sects of Tendai and Shingon, the practice of total fasting for a length of time like a week is one of the qualifications for becoming an “Acarya”, a master teacher. The Tendai school’s grueling practice of kaihōgyō ends with a nine-day period of fasting, which is a total abstention from food and drink. This practice is thought to be effective at producing spiritual power and having cleansing properties and promoting mental clarity.

Fasting is also practiced in Korean Seon Buddhism, as a supplement to meditation and as part of training called “Geumchok.”


It is clear that religions all use fasting as a pillar practice for their followers, no matter how many days or different names and periods there is to fast. The general consensus in most if not all religions is that fasting helps a person physically and mentally, basically like dieting. On a deeper level, it helps elevate the person spiritually, because by refraining from the basic human needs like thirst and hunger, one can elevate himself from needing any other news that is mostly deemed as dirty or sin in these religions. However, something unique to Judaism and Islam is that fasting is considered a way to repent from sin and protect oneself from the wrath of God. 

Finally, we’re all humans at the end of the day, fasting, and many other aspects of the many religions there are, are just one more proof that all of us look for control, and crave a balance that might grant happiness, not through the dire need for consumption, but through the complete opposite of it, to refrain. 

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