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.
When facing a question like this, you may find a group of people who try to justify that Islam is not a religion of peace. They usually refer to terrorist attacks by pseudo-Muslims and conclude that Islam is not a peaceful religion. Peace in Islam is a value and an ultimate goal of life; may it be personal, social or worldwide.
But let’s see what is Islam’s viewpoint about war and if it approves terrorism.
Before discussing the main topic of this article, we have to understand what peace in Islam means. According to Merriam Webster dictionary, “peace is a state of tranquility or quiet such as:
Freedom from Civil Disturbance
A state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom.
Freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
Harmony in personal relations.” 
Therefore, there are two types of peace defined above; social and individual. Islam not only talks about individual peace, but also all of its rules are based on logic to shape a peaceful society. In this article, we would focus on social aspects of peace in Islam, either within one country or on what goes on between different countries.
Allah emphasizes in the Quran that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) is a mercy towards all human beings: “We did not send you but as a mercy to all the nations” (21: 107). It can be understood from this verse that a worldwide mercy, peace, and tranquility is the goal of sending Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) with the religion of Islam.
Imam Ali (AS) in his letter to Malik al-Ashtar (his appointed commander in another country) wrote: “Develop in your heart the feeling of love for your people and let it be the source of kindliness and blessing to them. Do not behave with them like a barbarian, and do not appropriate to yourself that which belongs to them. Remember that the citizens of the state are of two categories. They are either your brethren in religion or your brethren in kind. They are subject to infirmities and liable to commit mistakes.” 
He specifically notes that we should be tolerant of people who have no bad deeds against Muslims and the religion of Islam.
In social relations The Quran defines Muslims as moderate people; “Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah, and those who are with him are hard against the faithless and merciful amongst themselves. “ (48:29)
By referring to the above verse and by going through its interpretations we find out that “Muslims should be harsh on infidels. Who are these infidels? Muslims should not be harsh on anyone who does not believe in Islam. They should behave kindly towards those who are not opposed to them, who do not plot against them, and who do not seek to wipe out their nations - even if they follow other faiths.” While at the same time “Muslims should be harsh on those who fight against Islam and their identity, nationality, country, independence, honor, dignity, traditions, culture, and values.”  Therefore, it is completely rational for Muslims to defend themselves while their values are being attacked, and it has no contradiction with their peaceful nature.
In recent years we have seen different terrorist groups such as Taliban, Al-Qaida or ISIS, who under the name of Islam, have committed terrorist attacks in different countries. They refer to verses of the Quran that are about the holy struggle (Jihad) and use those verses as a permission for their terrorist acts.
However, their interpretations of the verses of the holy struggle (Jihad) are not correct. The fact is that war is prohibited in Islam, and Muslims are not allowed to start a war against other countries for the sake of conquest or even for spreading the religion of Islam. Jihad is allowed for Muslims only if:
They are attacked by other countries, and their lives and properties are at risk.
If other Muslim territories are under attack by oppressive governments.
If other powers attack Muslim territories to annihilate Muslims or their religion.
“In the holy struggle (Jihad), violating or infringing on others' rights is not allowed. Killing other people under baseless pretexts is not part of the holy struggle (jihad). Neither is killing those who are not Muslims. Such acts are not allowed in the holy struggle (Jihad). Not all those who believe in religions other than Islam should be treated with harshness. Rather, only those who are opposed to Islam, your independence and territorial integrity, and Islamic culture, identity, and values should be treated with harshness. If carried out under these conditions, the holy struggle (Jihad) is considered as a divine order and will bring about glory to nations.” 
It is only under these conditions that Muslims are allowed to fight against the oppressors. And even when they are allowed to defend themselves and enter the war, they have to make sure to follow the rules of war. They are not allowed to kill the children or elderly of the infidels, or to poison the cities of the infidels. 
They have to tolerate the refugees, and if they betray them, they will face punishment . Also, they should observe the rights of the captives of war :
“Allah does not forbid you from dealing with kindness and justice with those [polytheists] who did not make war against you on account of religion and did not expel you from your homes. Indeed Allah loves the just. Allah forbids you only regarding those who made war against you on account of religion and expelled you from your homes and supported [the polytheists of Makkah] in your expulsion, that you make friends with them, and whoever makes friends with them—it is they who are the wrongdoers.” (60: 8-9)
In conclusion, Islam is a religion of peace for Muslim people and peaceful people. It is not a passive religion to sit and watch all the cruel things that are happening in the world and smile at it. Islam is the life map for those who wish to reach human perfection which is only achieved by obeying all of its rulings. No matter you call it Islam or something else, but every sane human being, by studying The Quran and searching about Islam, will understand that Islamic rules have been designed to make the society a safe place for human growth.
Nowadays, pets are inseparable parts of people’s lives. In the United States, for example, over 60% of families have pets. Some have dogs, cats, while others keep fish, turtles, birds, rabbits, horses, sheep, pigs, or chickens. No one knows for sure when the first animals were domesticated, but according to history, humans have always developed close associations with animals. Although early humans might have first sought to domesticate animals as living tools, other benefits of animals caused humans to keep pets, too. Muslims can also exploit animals taking into account some considerations stated below.
Islam has never been indifferent to animals. The proofs are verses of the Quran, Sunnah, and sayings of the Imams (AS) which strongly exhort Muslims to treat animals and birds with compassion, not to abuse them, and repeatedly blame cruelty towards them.
In a narration, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH&HP) enumerates six rights for an animal over its owner, of which are: “he should not burden it with a load that it cannot bear, he should not hit the animal except when it truly deserves”, etc. .
Hence, hitting a dog in the face or body as punishment and making it obedient through fear, putting a heavy load on a camel or a horse, providing little food for a cat, and putting a canary in a small cage are all blamed in Islam. It is also quoted from the Prophet (PBUH&HP) that God forgave a prostitute who saved a thirsty dog from death by drawing up some water from a well using her shoes . Also, According to the Quran, all living and non-living creatures are made by Allah [i], and He loves all animals; so should do humans.
In Islamic teachings, there is nothing wrong with keeping animals and it is even recommended in some cases; except for some animals that Islamic conditions or prohibition on keeping them should be observed. Besides, keeping some animals such as roosters, camels, sheep, horses, cats, and pigeons is highly recommended .
In other words, keeping permissible animals is allowed, and in some cases, it brings blessing to its owner . But, this should be under certain circumstances, such as: treating and feeding pets properly, having enough space to accommodate them, considering the hygienic requirements of both the animal and its owner, and respecting neighbors’ rights.
For accommodating an animal at home, a proper separate shelter must be provided, based on the needs and the nature of the animal. For a bird, for example, a comfortable cage indoors suffices, but a camel or a sheep must be kept outdoors! In this regard, apart from the hygienic points that should be taken into account, the excrement and urine of some birds and animals are impure (Najis), hence, keeping them indoors needs attention .
What is encouraged in Islam is keeping domesticated animals that need humans to protect and feed them, or wild animals which require protection; otherwise it should be avoided, especially if keeping the animal at home causes harm to it .
A review of the Islamic narrations reveals that the emphasis on keeping pets is because of the benefits and the blessings that certain animals bring to their owners and saving them and their families from disasters. Having camels, horses and sheep were advised in the past because of their role in the economy of the family, transportation, and defense. And nowadays, many people around the world consume the products obtained from sheep, and some still use horses and camels for farm work and transport in some areas.
In some sayings keeping a rooster, pigeon, sheep, and cat is named among the ways of drawing sustenance and benefits . Another advantage of having pets is that some animals warn humans in case of danger, they clean up their surroundings from vermin and prevent waste .
It is also essential to know that respecting the animals’ rights is of paramount importance in Islam and is explicitly stated in Islamic teachings. This equally applies to both animals permitted and forbidden to be kept by Muslims. This prevents from treating animals cruelly, neglecting them, over-working or over-loading animals (as stated above), and hunting them for sport.
It was said that keeping animals is recommended in Islam, but not all of them; like dogs and especially pigs. Since dogs are considered impure (Najis) and humans are susceptible to catch a disease from them, Muslims are advised against keeping them . Nevertheless, there is nothing in Islam that states to hate dogs or harm them. On the contrary, feeding dogs (even stray dogs) and watering them are reported in Sunnah and the conduct of the Imams (AS) . It is also permitted to keep dogs where they assist humans and are kept outdoors .
But about pigs, as there is no benefit in keeping them and as they are impure (Najis), Muslims are forbidden to keep them .
[i] (25:59), (2:29), (45:4), etc.
- H. T. Nuri Ṭabarsi, “Mustadrak al-Wassail”, vol. 8, p. 258, T. 9393.
- S. A. al-Muttaqi, “Kanz al-Ummal”, T. 43116.
- A. Javadi Amoli, “Mafatih al-hayat”, p. 643.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 16, p. 124.
- Complete Risalah Amaliyah.
- Muhaddith Nuri, “Mustadrak al-Wasail”, vol. 8, p. 248.
- M. B. Majlesi, “Bihar al-Anwar”, vol. 104, p. 41, T. 52.