There are many reasons why Islam is different from Christianity, and we have lots of resources to help you identify them! Today we are focusing on the different approaches to fasting, the what, how, and why in both the Quran and the Bible. This way you can learn what your Muslim friend believes, compare it to what the Bible says, and figure out how to talk about fasting with them!
What Islam teaches about fasting
Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, which means it is required of every Muslim to practice it in order to please Allah. The main fasting time of the year takes place during the month of Ramadan, where Muslims fast for 28 days from sunrise to sunset. They fast from food and drink, as well as certain actions, like sex, smoking, and even lying. This year Ramadan is March 22 through April 21 (it changes every year based on the lunar calendar).
Ramadan is a sacred month in Islam. It is a time where devout Muslims are more alert spiritually, and are working harder to please Allah. Many try to recite the entire Quran during that month and engage in special evening prayers at the mosque (called Taraweeh) after they have broken their fasting.
You will notice that Muslims are most generous towards the poor Muslims during this month as well. They provide cooked meals to the less fortunate in their neighborhoods, and most of them give their annual Zakat (tithing) to their mosque during this sacred month.
To learn more about Ramadan, check out these blogs about Ramadan!
Why Muslims fast
Allah commands Muslims to fast as a sign of submission to him. Muslims are told that fasting will purify them and draw them closer to Allah. The more devout the Muslim is, the more seriously they take the month of Ramadan and fasting within it. If they miss a day, they try to make it up as soon as they can, so they do not lose the blessing of their entire month fasting.
“O you who have believed, decreed upon you is fasting as it was decreed upon those before you that you may become righteous.”
What the Bible teaches us about fasting
The Bible gives us many examples of how to fast. For example, Jesus fasted for 40 days in the desert. Daniel did a partial fast for 21 days where he avoided all meats and sweets.
“So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes.” Daniel 9:3
Fasting is not the same for every Christian. It is an individual practice (or a practice within a small group of believers) that has to do with personal conviction and situations. Fasting is a Spirit-led practice and is not required for salvation.
The Holy Spirit can call a person to fast in any type of season. Usually we are called to fast in order to be closer to God and rely more on Him than the flesh. Nothing about fasting purifies the Christian of their sins or makes God love them more. Rather, it is a way for the relationship to deepen with our Heavenly Father.
Jesus said: “...when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father …” Matthew 6:17-18
How to talk about fasting with your Muslim friend
How you talk about fasting with your Muslim friend will largely depend on your experience with fasting. The truth of the Bible that you can share with them will stay the same, but your own experiences can be used to talk to your Muslim friend too! If you have fasted before, you will have stories of how God has used this to draw you closer to Him. If you haven’t fasted, you can still talk about what God teaches us about fasting in the Bible.
It is key to share the individuality of fasting according to the Bible. Fasting is not a box to be checked off by all believers in order to make God happy, but it is part of our one-on-one relationship with God so that we can enter into a deeper relationship with Him. Sharing this with your Muslim friend can open their eyes to the personal relationship that God desires with them, instead of a rulebook and grading system under Islam.
Remember, your Muslim friend most likely fasts at least once a year. Ramadan is a huge event in Islamic culture, for both spiritual and communal reasons. In Muslim communities, the fast is often broken at night with big meals where people come together and celebrate. This means their experience and knowledge about fasting is very different.
Take time to listen to your Muslim friend’s personal experiences with fasting. Ask them questions and pray that the Holy Spirit gives you understanding and love towards them. You can ask questions such as:
- How old were you when you first fasted during Ramadan?
- What do you feel when you fast?
- Why do you fast during Ramadan?
- How does fasting affect your relationship with God?
Dear Lord, thank you for an intimate relationship with You through your Son Jesus. Please transform my heart so that I can hear Your will first and foremost. Show me if there are areas of my life that I need to rely more on You. Give me the right words so that I can share your love with my Muslim friend. Amen.
The majority of this post was taken from The Simple Truth by Samya Johnson, available for purchase in our online store.