Fasting, spirituality and religion | Egyptian streets


Fasting, spirituality and religion

Jain nuns gather under the monolithic statue of Gommateshvara in Shravanabelagola, India. Photo credit | Mario Tama/Getty Images

For centuries, people have practiced abstinence from the comforts and pleasures of everyday life as a way to regain spiritual focus and connection. Fasting is a widespread practice in all religions and cultures that involves abstaining from food completely, or almost completely, for a specific amount of time.

Recently, the practice of fasting has been incorporated into popular culture as a way to lose weight, improve metabolism, prevent or slow disease, and possibly increase lifespan.

Rozalyn Anderson, an associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, has studied the benefits of calorie restriction. She thinks ‘having a fasting period every day could reap some of those benefits. […] he gets into the idea that fasting puts the body in a different state, where it’s more ready to repair and watch out for damage.

Far from being new, the practice of fasting has been embodied in religious doctrine and embraced by the pious for millennia. However, there are varying differences in the practice of fasting across cultures.

In Greek Orthodox Christianity, people fast for a total of 180 to 200 days each year, and their main fasting periods are the Nativity Fast (40 days before Christmas), Lent (48 days before Easter), and Christmas. Assumption (15 days). in August).

Christian fasting does not involve complete abstinence from food, but rather sparse eating – it is more common for an individual to give up a particular food or habit.

According to the Reverend Marc Lavarin, associate minister of the Alfred Street Baptist Church in Alexandria, Virginia, “One thing that people tend to cut out during Lent is chocolate or sugar, but since fasting doesn’t have not necessarily to do with food, some people will also give up social media or television.

In Islam, fasting is considered one of the five pillars that shape the beliefs and actions of practicing Muslims. During Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic lunar calendar, Muslims abstain from food, water, smoking and all sensory pleasures. Fasting in Islam is considered a method of spiritual introspection, repentance and showing empathy towards the poor.

Fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. Photo credit | Reuters/Fahad Shadeed

For Muslims, fasting can allow the believer to better perceive the ultimate reality of God which involves the five senses – touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste, according to 12th century theologian al-Ghazali .

On the other hand, Jainism is an ancient religion of India which teaches that liberation and happiness are attained by leading a life of harmlessness and renunciation. Fasting in the Jain tradition is more focused on asceticism, the virtues of self-discipline, non-attachment and restraint.

For eight to ten days, during the Paryushan holiday, this is when Jains practice the fundamentals of faith through fasting and study. During Paryushan, types of fasting include complete avoidance of food, partial eating, elimination of rare or expensive foods, and avoidance of sexual temptations.

However, this remains true in all religions, fasting brings a shock to the human body which manifests both physically and mentally. Abstinence from worldly needs and desires gives way to spiritual contemplation and reflection. Hence, allowing the mind, body and soul to enter a new state of consciousness and healing.

In photos: Portraits of Fayyum mummies

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