99 Truth Tracts

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen?"


Are you keeping the fast? Do you see a need to keep the fast? If the commands of God are important to you, then certainly it is important also to keep the fast.

And yet very often men and women who abstain from food, water and harmful substances actually do not fast in the true way of God. There is little understanding of fasting in our world.

Text Sura 2:185a
"Ramadan is the month in which was sent down the Qur'an as a guide to mankind, also clear (signs) for guidance and judgement (between right and wrong). So every one of you who is present (at his home) during that month should spend it in fasting"

Sura 2:185b
"Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties."

* Fasting in the Qur'an & Hadith
* Fasting Today
* 1000 Years Before Hijra
* Heed the Prophets
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* Fasting in the Qur'an & Hadith

The Fast of Ramadan is enjoined in the Qur'an very clearly. One fifth of all people on the planet are called to abstain from food during daylight hours. This month is the commemoration of the revealing of the Qur'an and should be a accompanied by prayers and the reading of the Qur'an. It is a compassionate exercise, with flexibility given to the sick and travellers. The purpose of God is revealed: "Allah intends every facility for you; He does not want to put you to difficulties." (Sura 2:185b)

"Islam has been built on five [pillars]" among which is fasting in the month of Ramadan (An-Nawawi's Forty Hadith:3). The Fast is also mentioned as one of the requirements for entry to Paradise (An-Nawawi:22). Is there any question of how important it was to Muhammad and his companions?

At the same time, let us remember that fasting is not unique to any one religion. Let no one be so proud as to believe that their good deeds are better than another's. Even in the days of Muhammad the affluent non-Muslims fasted in the same manner as the Companions of the Prophet (An-Nawawi:25). Even atheists and pagans have fasted, but certainly not unto God.

* Fasting Today

We should acknowledge at this point that both Christians and Muslims around the world have failed in their mandate to fast. For instance, it is well known that during the month of Ramadan more food is consumed than at any other time of the year in the Muslim world. In addition, this month is known to be a very difficult time amongst Muslims with many tensions in society frequently resulting in anger and fights.

The general Christian world is no better, where fasting has turned for many from a secret act to a nearly non-existent one, although there are some who would still fast during the month of Lent. If we are seeking after God's chosen fast, then we should not hold in each other's faces the effigies of our failures. Most of the abuses in the Muslim and Christian worlds come from the cesspool of materialism that has swept over the entire planet.

But what is it to you or me if Muslims and Christians do not fast rightly? Do we assume God's laws to be what we see people around us practising? No, we must seek the chosen fast, the one taught by all the prophets, from Adam through Abraham and his righteous sons!

* 1000 years Before Hijra

God has always had his prophets calling His people back to repentance. This was the case with the Prophet Isaiah, a descendant of Abraham who lived and prophesied before the advent of Christianity and Islam, at a time when the people of God had forgotten what His chosen fast was about. He declares:

"Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife... Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for a man to humble himself? Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed and for lying on sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter - when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard" (Isaiah 58:4-8).

Nearly six hundred years before hijra, Jesus, the Son of Mary, declared:

"When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." (Matthew 6:16-18)

* Heed the Prophets

If prophets speak, we must listen, even if we live hundreds of years after their ministry. The teachings of Jesus in this matter are worthy of our respect. He said that after His departure, His followers would fast. Exactly that happened. The Companions of Jesus and their followers actively practised unseen fasting, normally twice a week, even though many unbelievers refused to do so. There were also times when the believers fasted corporately, usually in times of crisis or for special events. It was not a yearly prescribed fast. It had an immediate purpose. With the money they would have spent for food those who fasted gave to the hungry, to both believers and non-believers, without asking reward. They saw this as part of their love for God, not as a means of earning the right to go to Paradise. They desired to live by the Spirit of God and not by their stomach.

Their fast was also compassionate. No one should be compelled to fast either privately or publicly, for this is what religious hypocrites do. If society forces us to fast, then it robs us of the joy of obeying God out of love.

It should be the same with us today, if we seek to follow the prophets. Our fasting should be seen only by God. It should be a means of controlling our appetite, not aggravating it. It should bring an end to sin. It should release food for those who are starving and in need. It should give us opportunity to pray and petition God for those around us. It should purify our souls so that in character we become more like God's prophets. Our lives should change by the fast. And most of all, fasting should help us to know God better, not just know facts and doctrines about God.

Is your fast a private or public exercise? If it is not private, then I am sorry, but you have already received your reward, the approval of society. If it is secret, then your reward is in heaven, with God.

Is your fast part of a regular and daily process to subdue your sins and appetites, to ask God to refine your character to match His? No, you might say, shocked. No one can be like God. God is God alone. That is true. But God has made man in His own image. We are not like beasts, unable to apprehend God. What God has made in His image, He is able to fellowship with. And what is religion without this refining of our character to be like His? It is nothing but a set of rules! Rules are invented by men, but only God makes the way to be known.

If you say yes, my fast is meant to build a relationship with God, then well done. You have taken a good step in understanding the chosen fast of God, as taught by Jesus, son of Mary. And through His secret, sacred fast, by taking on the life of Jesus Christ, we learn what it means to love and know God. To this all the prophets testify.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen...?"

[99 Truth Tracts]

This pamphlet was compiled by an interdenominational group of evangelical Christians concerned with Muslim-Christian dialogue.

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