Since Ramadan is ending over the following weekend, I thought I would take this chance to talk about fasting, and its spiritual implications. When I was Mormon, I used to fast once a month and I gave my testimony of my belief in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. So I know a little bit about that version of fasting, and have read a little about the Islamic version of fasting. They are pretty much the same in terms of spiritual implications, so I will just talk about fasting in general.
Fasting is good for improving a person’s level of spirituality, and who doesn’t need that? If you have a particularly hard problem to solve, perhaps a sin that you find it really hard to repent of, then fasting can give you that extra spiritual power necessary to beat that temptation once and for all. I am a tutor for international students, and a lot of my students are Muslim. I have noticed during Ramadan, at least once, I will get money that I am owed that I did not get before. I think Ramadan helps people examine more closely their actions, and encourages them to be better people, more honest, more spiritual. I believe, also, that there is a question of whether or not someone’s Ramadan is actually accepted by God. I take this to mean that if a person is not living to the best of their ability, then there is a danger that a person’s fast will hurt them, rather than help them because they will be making light of a sacred practice. If a person fasts but then drinks and smokes, for example, they are not taking the fast seriously and they could anger God.
Fasting is also valuable because it puts us in a position where we recognize more deeply the pain of hunger. It makes us (hopefully) more compassionate for those who suffer that pain on a constant basis. The money that we save from fasting, that normally we would spend on food, can be given to those who truly need it. And I do not mean to the panhandlers on Spring Garden Road. I mean perhaps a poor family in the neighbourhood who is trying to do the right thing in life, but has fallen on hard times.
I think next year I might try to fast during Ramadan and become more spiritual (Heaven knows I need it!). I asked on my Facebook page if non-Muslims can fast for Ramadan and I got a response that said yes, anyone can. I expected as much; I just didn’t want to do something offensive without realizing it. I do enough offensive stuff that I’m fully aware of!
Some people can’t fast for medical reasons. When I was Mormon, I read that in order to get around this, people can eat, but they eat plainer food than they otherwise would. In this way, they also experience a certain amount of hardship but they still get the blessings of the fast. Fasting has a lot of spiritual rewards. I really admire the Muslims who are in countries like Canada during Ramadan. It can’t be easy to fast in a country where everything goes on as usual, people eat in front of you, etc. In Saudi Arabia, I believe businesses shut down at the appropriate times and it is much easier to fast there from what I have heard. So next year, if you are not part of a religion that does the fast, and you hear that it’s Ramadan (it should be starting around the beginning of July or at the end of the first week, I believe), be considerate and try not to eat in front of people who are going without so that they can be better people of God.