Human beings are created to be free and choose what to do with their own lives. However, sometimes the path toward growth is not through being free to have whatever we desire but to abstain from what we really wish while it is deviating or is a barrier against reaching the perfect version of ourselves. Here, the history of fasting finds its meaning. This is a ritual in which one, by his/her own free will, chooses to abstain from certain activities; this could range from not eating or drinking for a specific time, etc. Many faiths and religions, throughout history, encouraged their followers to fast in a certain way, each aiming at the spiritual elevation of their adherents. Islam is also among those religions which have made fasting an obligation upon its followers under certain circumstances, accepting the fact that this was not a tradition unique to Islam:
"O you who have faith! Prescribed for you is fasting as it was prescribed for those who were before you, so that you may be Godwary." Quran (2:183)
In what follows, we will have a look at the practice and history of fasting in the five most prominent non-Abrahamic faiths.
Looking at the history of fasting in primitive tribes and cults, we find some evidence regarding their belief in the spiritual impact of fasting and "was a practice to prepare persons, especially priests and priestesses, to approach the deities." Some Hellenistic cults believed fasting to be the prerequisite for reaching divine revelation for their priests. Some others thought that fasting "was one of the requirements for penance after an individual had confessed sins before a priest." 
Fasting was also common among Native Americans, practiced in private, or as a part of public ceremonies. The individual fasting often included the ones who had recently entered puberty, and they had to spend some time alone, from one to four days. During this time, they had to reach a particular spiritual maturity by observing certain rituals. Also, "It was not uncommon for an adult to fast, as a prayer for success when about to enter upon an important enterprise, as war or hunting" . Moreover, fasting was considered a requirement for religious heads to be able to fulfill their duties. The public fasting happened as a part of the initiation into religious societies, the length of which "ranged from midnight to sunset, or continued for four days and nights." The fast of these ancient tribes often included abstinence from food and water. The Native Americans saw fasting as "a means to spiritualize human nature and quicken the spiritual vision by abstinence from earthly food… as a method by which to remove "the smell" of the common world." 
Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians also practiced abstinence from food and drink as "a form of penance that accompanied other expressions of sorrow for wrongdoing. Like people of later times, these nations viewed fasting as meritorious in atoning for faults and sins and thus turning away the wrath of the gods." 
The Hindu faith also includes some form of fasting, which is ultimately aimed at spiritual awareness and growth by forming a balanced relationship between the body and the soul. Hindus believe that fasting can be a means of concentration on spiritual attainment through abstaining from worldly indulgences and distractions. Another purpose of fasting in Hinduism is self-discipline, which is made possible through "training of the mind and the body to endure and harden up against all hardships, to persevere under difficulties and not give up. According to Hindu philosophy, food means gratification of the senses, and to starve the senses is to elevate them to contemplation." 
Hindus have specified certain days for fastings, such as Purnima (full moon) and Ekadasi (the 11th day of the fortnight). Moreover, depending on the god or goddess each individual worships, certain days of the week are dedicated to fasting. They also fast on special feasts and festivals, including "Durga Puja," "Navaratri, Shivratri, and Karwa Chauth. Navaratri is a festival when people fast for nine days."  It is noteworthy that some kinds of fasting in Hinduism are only obligatory for women.
The practice of fasting in Buddhism is seemingly limited to monks and religious leaders. It is said that the Buddha had undergone long periods of fasting during the time he was learning from other teachers as a kind of self-mortification. While there is no record for Buddha's fasting after this time or his recommendation for fasting to his followers, many Buddhist monks tend to fast on certain occasions as a way of self-purification and spiritual elevation. They would eat only one meal a day and would fast on the days of the new and full moon.
As a part of Buddha's concept of moderation and avoiding excessive manners, intermittent or prolonged fastings are not encouraged in this faith. However, fasting for a reasonable amount of time and refraining from excessive eating is considered a useful way of preserving health in Buddhism.  In general, fasting in Buddhism is limited to refraining from eating solid food, such as meat.
Daoist's concept of fasting is more about mind rather than the body. Therefore, they encourage a form of "fasting of the heart" (xinzhai), which will result in a more pious life . However, they also believe that the fasting of the body will ultimately result in a clean body and a pure soul. In the book of Mencius, one of the famous Chinese scriptures, fasting is considered as a means of self-purification even for the one who has darkened his/her soul by vices:
"But although a person is ugly, it is possible, through fasting and purification, to become fit to perform sacrifices to the Lord-on-High" 
In this tradition, one must avoid doing any evil deed and keep away from harmful hobbies and desires. The followers of this tradition try to read more of their religious scriptures as they fast to connect more to that Higher being and find peace .
Zhang Yuchu wrote in the Ten Daoist Commandments: "Anyone cultivating Dao must fast for a clean body as well as a pure heart, and he must visualize the spirits and read Daoist scriptures silently in his mind. It is as if facing the Higher Emperor, communicating with him with the heart." 
It seems that most Zoroastrians implicitly reject the practice of bodily fasting, which in their view would weaken the body and prevents one from appropriately attending his/her spiritual duties and satisfying physical needs . The only form of fasting which they find permissible "is that of abstaining from sin" . There is also a reference to this prohibition in Avesta, the religious Zoroastrian text:
"It is requisite to abstain from the keeping of fasts. 2. For, in our religion, it is not proper that they should not eat every day or anything, because it would be a sin not to do so. 3. With us, the keeping of fast is this, that we keep fast from committing sin with our eyes and tongue and ears and hands and feet. 4. Some people are striving about it, so that they may not eat anything all day, and they practice abstinence from eating anything. 5. For us it is also necessary to make an effort, so that we may not think, or speak, or commit any sin; and it is necessary that no bad action should proceed from our hands, or tongue, or ears, or feet, which would be a sin owing to them. 6. Since I have spoken in this manner, and have brought forward the fasting of the seven members of the body, that which, in other religions, is fasting owing to not eating is, in our religion, fasting owing to not committing sin." 
However, there is a tradition of fasting in this religion at the time of mourning for a departed soul, which is only limited to not eating meat. As the Avesta suggest:
"In every habitation where anyone departs, passing away from the world, it is necessary to endeavor that they may not eat and not consecrate fresh meat for three days therein. 2. Because the danger is that someone else may depart, passing away; so the relations of that former person should not eat meat for three days." 
So far, we have reviewed the history of fasting in five well-known non-Abrahamic faiths, which reveals the spiritual roots of this practice from the beginning of the time. In the next article, we will study the ritual and history of fasting in three Abrahamic religions; that is Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
- native american fasting
- Das, Subhamoy. "Religious Fasting in Hinduism." Learn Religions, Feb. 11, 2020, learnreligions.com/why-fast-in-hinduism-1770050.
- Mencius, translated by Irene Bloom, Colombia University Press, New York. Book 4B, part 25.
- M. N. Dhalla, Zoroastrian Civilization from the Earliest Times to the Downfall of the Last Zoroastrian Empire 651 A.D., New York, 1922. P.187.
- Sad Dar, Translated by E. W. West, from Sacred Books of the East, volume 24, Clarendon Press, 1885. Chapters 78th and 83rd.
Allah (SWT) has created human beings the way that we are all associated with one another. We live in a society where none of us can live isolated lives and each one of us depends on the other for love, compassion, caring and even fulfilling our materialistic needs. Every day of our lives, we strive to each other’s needs and requirements. Apart from our intertwined social structure, at times, one of our family members, friends or colleagues needs money for their house rent or treatment of a disease, or requires a recommendation to attain someone’s assistance or just requires our emotional support to tide them through difficult times. These difficulties are not just a test for those suffering it, but also for those around them. We are tested with our response to fulfilling one’s needs. What were our efforts in alleviating a person’s need? Could we have helped him? How much did we help them? Sometimes, what a person needs is just a warm hug and a shoulder to cry on, did we become one for the needy person?
The recommendations and rewards related to fulfilling the needs of the people have been emphasized in such great measure that one is left amazed that despite this great path available to attaining success in the hereafter, how very few of us make the best of it.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP) says: “Anyone who wants Allah to enter him into His mercy and make him dwell in His paradise, he must beautify his conduct, be fair with people in his relationships, be merciful to the orphans, help the weak, and humble himself before Allah, his Creator.” 
The Holy Quran says about Prophet Muhammad (PBUH & HP): We did not send you but as a mercy to all the nations. (21:107)
The Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) was not just sent as a mercy to Muslims but to all of humanity and similarly the goodness and benevolence that are recommended for Muslims are not just limited to themselves but for every human being. Imam Ali (AS), the first rightful successor to the Holy Prophet (PBUH & HP) - when became the Caliph of the Muslim Ummah- he wrote in his letter to Malik Al-Ashtar, when the latter was appointed as the governor of Egypt: “Habituate your heart to mercy for the subjects and affection and kindness for people. Do not govern them like they are just greedy beasts and just in need of devouring, since they are of two kinds, either your brother in religion or one like you in creation.”
In the same letter he further advised Malik Al-Ashtar with the following words: “(Fear) Allah and keep Allah in view; in respect of the lowest class consisting of those who have few means: the poor, the destitute, the penniless and the disabled; because in this class are both the self- contained needy? And those who beg. Take care for the sake of Allah of His obligations towards them for which He has made you responsible. Fix for them a share from the public funds and a share from the crops of lands taken over as booty for Islam in every region, because in it the remote ones have the same shares as the near ones do. All these people are those whose rights have been placed in your charge. Therefore, a luxurious life should not keep you away from them. You cannot be excused for ignoring small matters because you were making decision for bigger problems. Consequently, do not be unmindful of them, nor turn your face from them out of vanity.” 
As the Caliph of the Muslim Ummah, one day Imam Ali (AS) saw an old blind man who was extremely troubled by his condition, begging for alms. Imam (AS) enquired about the man’s family and on investigating, found that he was a Christian by faith, and had earned his living through hard labour until he had lost his eyesight because of age. He was on his own and had no one to care for him. He had also not saved any money because of meagre earnings. When confirmed that he had never begged while he could earn, Imam Ali AS) said, ‘It is wondrous how you people use a human being for as long as he can serve you and discard him after he cannot. You all testify that he served society as long as he could see. It is, therefore, the duty of society and government to ensure him a decent life, now that he cannot fend for himself. I hereby institute a regular allowance to be paid to him from the State Treasury for as long as he lives.’  Similarly, Imam Sadiq (AS), the sixth Shi’ite Imam was once travelling with his helper, Musadaff between Mecca and Medina. On the way, they saw a man lying under a tree. Imam (AS) said: “Let’s go and see if he requires any help, it’s possible he has fainted due to dehydration.” When they went near him, they realised he was thirsty, so they immediately gave him some water and helped him sit up. After they had helped the man and made him feel better, they left the place. On the way, Musaddaf asked Imam (AS), “O, dear Imam, from his appearance, it was clear that the man is a Christian. Could we help Christians and give them alms?’ Imam Sadiq (AS) replied: ‘Yes, especially when they are in need, just as it was right now. 
Islam is a universal religion which has been presented to guide and serve humanity. Thus, we see that Muslims almost all over the world strive to serve fellow human beings, irrespective of their faiths. The Corona pandemic was a tragedy that called for human cooperation, empathy and brotherhood and Muslims throughout the world played a significant role in treating the sick, helping their family members cope with the tragedy and also made financial arrangements for the needy. Throughout Europe, Muslims made noteworthy philanthropic contributions to their respective communities and countries amid public health crisis. From Germany to the United Kingdom, European Muslims have coordinated relief efforts for their compatriots as a whole and not just for their coreligionists. Despite constant propaganda against Muslims and Islam, in particular, being a violent and hate-filled religion, such acts of charity and brotherhood seek to spread the true teachings of Islam through their deeds.
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Having the major themes that were mentioned in the previous article in mind, while going out for fun in Islam, we can realize if the sort of entertainment that we are up to, is lawful or not. Now, let’s have a look at a few lawful (Halal) fun activities:
In Islam having a good relationship with relatives is an obligation even if that relative is not Muslim . Therefore having gatherings with friends, family and relatives is not even lawful (Halal) but also recommended, keeping in mind that in all sorts of gatherings we must avoid gossiping, backbiting, humiliating others, and using bad words, as they have prohibited in Islam [i].
In chapter (Surah) Mu’minoun when Allah is describing the features of a real believer, he says: “And those who avoid vain talk” (23: 3)
Although we have many verses with the content mentioned above, it does not mean that Muslims should be charmless and moody. Therefore we have to find out what vain talk really means. The vain talk could be a sort of talk that can annoy other people [ii]. However, telling jokes that have no bad content or have a sort of humorous attitude that can make the listener laugh and make him/her happy and energetic, is recommended in Islam. It is narrated from Imam Sadiq (AS) that “among the most precious actions in the eyes of God is to bring joy and happiness to the heart of a believer.” 
Having fun in Islam with the non-Mahram opposite sex is forbidden. Instead, getting married and enjoying a relationship with the spouse is highly recommended. It is narrated from Imam Baqir (AS) that, “the fun of a believer is in three things: enjoying his/her spouse, joking with friends, and the night prayer.” 
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) says: “Travel so that you stay fine and healthy.” 
Going out to nature, being only a few hours in a park or camping in the woods overnight, or traveling to other cities or countries is not only a change of mood, but there are also lessons and edification in it for a believer [iii].
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) used to encourage people to necessarily learn sports such as horse riding, swimming, and archery. There are many narrations concerning these three specific sports as well as other sorts of fun in Islam that our prophet (PBUH&HP) used to get involved in at his time. For example, it is narrated that he used to take part in camel riding races and he was really good at it.
However it does not mean that in our time we should stick to archery, horse riding, or camel riding, rather we should find the types of sports that suit our time and are also required in life. We can say that these days driving replaces horse riding. Or even cycling, karate and running or walking are easy and useful sports.
World championship sports these days mostly serve international political reasons rather than health and joy.
These kinds of activities are fun and exciting. Some people enjoy these activities alongside activities such as bungee jumping. Some people have adventurous personalities and need a kind of entertainment like this, so they can gain energy and stability to go back to work on a Monday morning. Therefore there is no problem to enjoy them.
Reading is a calming and relaxing activity. Sitting by the fire on a winter’s day and drinking a cup of tea while reading, or on a summer’s day doing the same thing on the balcony would be so joyful. Most of our jurists recommend inserting reading into our daily lives. But we have to be careful about what we read. Reading all types of books is, not lawful (Halal) for a Muslim. A Muslim should be cautious about the contents of the books she/ he chooses to read. The book should help elevate the life and soul of the reader and not engage his/ her mind with useless information.
Playing computer games as long as there is no unethical content in the game is not forbidden. If people play computer games to rest, or change their moods, it would be fine. But we have all seen how some people are addicted to digital games that have no use for them and only waste their energy as well as physically hurting them. However, spending too much time on a computer game that may have no use for the growth of one’s soul is detestable (Makruh). The same rule applies to movies. When choosing a movie to watch, it is important to make sure that the content of that movie does not harm our souls.
Playing cards, especially when a group of friends comes together can be fun. However, any sort of card games that are known to be used for gambling, even if we do not bet on them, is forbidden. Imam Reza (AS) said: “God has prohibited His servants from all sorts of gambling (games with winners and losers), and commands them to avoid these games…” , as they are “abominations of Satan’s doing” [iv].
In conclusion, by keeping in mind that the entertainment of a believer should do no harm to him/her or others, but should also have some benefits for him/her, we can understand why Imam Ali (AS) says: “working is the greatest fun of a believer”. 
[i] “O you who have faith! Let not any people ridicule other people: it may be that they are better than they are, nor let women [ridicule] women: it may be that they are better than they are. And do not defame one another, nor insult one another by [calling] nicknames. How evil are profane names subsequent to faith! As for those who are not penitent [of their past conduct]—such are the wrongdoers. O you who have faith! Avoid much suspicion; indeed some suspicions are sins. And do not spy on one another or backbite. Will any of you love to eat the flesh of his dead brother? You would hate it. Be wary of Allah; indeed Allah is All-clement, all-merciful.” (49:11- 12)
[ii]“Woe to every scandal-monger and slanderer” (104:1)
[iii]“Have they not traveled in the land and seen how was the fate of those who were before them? They were more powerful than them, and they plowed the earth and developed it more than they have developed it. Their apostles brought them manifest proofs. So it was not Allah who wronged them, but it was they who used to wrong themselves.” (30: 9)
[iv]“O you who have faith! Indeed wine, gambling, idols, and the divining arrows are abominations of Satan’s doing, so avoid them, so that you may be felicitous.” (5: 90)
- Mafatih al-hayat, p. 211
- Al-kafi, vol. 2. P. 188
- Mafatih al-hayat, p. 205
- Al-hadith, vol. 2, p. 145
- Mafatih al-hayat, p. 205
- Nahjulbalaghah, Hekmah no. 39