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The purpose and benefits of fasting


DEVOTION: Fasting at
Ramadan is a tradition
with a spiritual connection
DEVOTION: Fasting at Ramadan is a tradition with a spiritual connection

By ANDY MARINO RESTRICTED EATING CAN HAVE BOTH SPIRITUAL AND MEDICAL BENEFITS EACH year, in the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims worldwide undertake fast­ing each day between the pre-dawn suhur meal and the sunset iftar repast that ends it. The purpose of Ramadan is to focus one’s spirit­uality, to renew and purify acquaintance with god. As the Surah Al-Baqarah has it: “Allah desires for you ease; he desires not hardship for you; and that you should complete the period, and that you should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that perhaps you may be thankful.” This concentration and devotion is made pos­sible partly by not eating. Why is this? Clearly a connection between fasting and the spirit exists, a sense of sacrifice or atonement. This is found not only in Islam, but in almost all religions, and from the most ancient times. Hinduism has many different days and periods of fasting, reflecting the many different deities honoured by the observance; Buddhism likewise. In the Jain faith there is the eight-day festival of Paryushan when fasting once again commends introspection and purification. In Judaism six days in the year (including Yom Kippur) must be allowed for fasting, and in Christianity there are many traditions of fasting, the best-known being Lent; many more occasions ex­ist in the Christian Orthodox Churches, reflecting very old practices in the eastern Mediterranean.Shamen all over the world go off into the forest or wilderness without food to enter a spiritual trance and meet their gods. If a practice such as fasting is at once so uni­versal and venerable, one can bet there is some­thing important behind it. Only recently, howev­er, has science begun catching up with religious wisdom to reveal the practical benefits hidden within the spiritual philosophy of the fast. Fasting can in fact…

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