Sunday
14 April | 2024

Lahore, Pakistan

How followers of three religions observing fasting in Pakistan?

Muslims observe 30-day fasting during Islamic month of Ramadan; Christians have 40-day Lent season, while followers of Baha’i faith have 19-day fasting as per their religious beliefs

Followers of three religions are observing fasting days in Pakistan as they consider abstinence from foods or drinks for a set period essential for creating a time to pause and refraining from routine activities or taking different things on.

Faith followers may know better that fasting may not be suitable for everyone without a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle, as starving can lead to bad effects on patients or people with chronic diseases. Even religious scholars suggest their followers to consult a physician first if someone has any underlying health conditions or are planning to fast for more than 10 hours.

As per these scholars, fasting is not generally recommended without medical supervision for older adults, adolescents, people with underweight, or people undergoing medical treatment. They suggested their followers to stay well-hydrated and fill diet with nutrient-dense foods during eating periods to maximize potential health benefits. Overall, incorporating fasting into routine could benefit health when coupled with a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle.

Pope says prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are not three unrelated acts, but a single movement of openness and self-emptying

RAMADAN AND MUSLIMS

Ramadan started from March 12 till April 9 or April 10, as per the Hijri calendar in which it is ‘difficult’ to predict, and can only be decided by a government-backed committee to determine a new month after recording moon sightings. As the holiest month, Ramadan marked by fasting, prayers, reading the Holy Qur’an regularly, and charity. As per the Islamic scholars, healthy adult Muslims fast from dawn until dusk.

In his message, President Asif Ali Zardari said that Ramadan provides all Muslims with a golden opportunity to become an ideal citizen by devoting them to obedience and servitude of Almighty Allah. He urged philanthropists to pay more charity on this Ramadan to support the needy and destitute. “Ramadan serves to strengthen foundation of basic principles of compassion, fraternity, brotherhood, and cooperation among Muslims,” Prime Minister Muhammad Shahbaz Sharif said in his message.

Fatima Hanif, a final year dental student in Lahore, told Jarida Daily that she was always enjoying the experience of fasting during the blessed month as she was feeling very close to her faith, as well as kindness towards people around her. “For me, Ramadan is just pure blessings for us, as we have to keep more care not only to ourselves but to our family members as well as our neighbors and relatives,” she said. “Let us remember the most vulnerable of the vulnerable around us during the holy month.”

Shahid Ahmed Baloch, a young artist, told Jarida Daily that Ramadan places great emphasis on community and shared sense of unity and togetherness through collective prayers, food, and charity. “I believe that this holy month offers a chance to reconnect spiritually through daily worship and reflection,” he said. “We can become more mindful of blessings in our life, as Ramadan allows us an opportunity for self-reflection,” he said. “As you fast, you’re tending to your spiritual health, nourishing your body, and relationships,” he said.

In a video message, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the spirit of Ramadan was a beacon of hope, a reminder of a shared humanity. ‘’Ramadan embodies values of peace, resilience, and generosity. It is a period of reflection and prayer, an opportunity to come together and uplift each other,” he said. “Let us all be inspired: to heal divisions; to support those in need; and to work as one for the safety and dignity of every member of the human family. May this holy month bring peace and guide us towards a more just and compassionate world,” he said.

How followers of three religions observing fasting in Pakistan?
On Nawruz, the sun illumines equally the whole earth

19-DAY FASTING AND BAHAIS

Followers of Bahaʼi faith observe a sunrise-to-sunset fast during the Baha’I month of Ala that started from March 1 till March 19, as per the Badi calendar – a scheme of nineteen months of nineteen days, with the product of 361 days, plus intercalary days to make the calendar a solar timetable. Explained in Kitáb-i-Aqdas, the fasting is regarded as one of the most significant obligations along with daily obligatory prayers. With Nowruz, the new-year 181 BE (Baháʼí Era) will start on March 20, 2024.

“Our holy month is a time for sacrificing our desires and submitting our will to the divine reality. Fasting for 19 days from sunrise to sunset offers an opportunity for spiritual renewal – a time to readjust our mind, body, and heart; a time to contemplate deeply on the purpose of this life; a time to detach ourselves from all material things; and a time to explore the spiritual side of human reality,” said Nouman Khan, an engineer working for the power sector in Pakistan.

The fasting applies to those 15 to 70 years old except those exempted from fasting as per the set rules. “Our fasting days are filled with joy, a joy that cannot be replaced by anything else. When this joy permeates through the work or study we engage in, it becomes an act of service and worship,” said Nouman Khan – a follower of the faith. “All the energies acquired during this holy month will prepare us for the entry into a new year, beginning with the festival of Nawruz,” he said.

The nineteen days of fasting occur immediately after Ayyam-i-Ha, the intercalary days to prepare for the upcoming month of restraint. It is pertinent to mention here that Nowruz is the first day of the Badi calendar year and one of eleven holy days for the faith followers. As per the scholars, Nawruz is instituted as a festival for those who observed the fast. Nawruz is usually a festive event observed with meetings for prayer, celebrations, and a special dinner along with readings from the holy-scripture.

Dr Saba Nakeakhtar, who is associated with healthcare management in Islamabad, said that fasting was a time period of heightened spirituality, meditation and prayer, detachment, immersing ourselves in the praise and commemoration of God. “I don’t make any significant changes in my routine due to the holy fasting month, as I can manage my daily life,” she said, described abstinence from foods or drinks for a set period as the most substantial influencing factor of day-to-day structure.

Antonio Guterres calls Ramadan a beacon of hope, a reminder of a shared humanity

40-DAY LENT SEASON AND CHRISTIANS

Lent begins 46 days before the Saturday of Easter weekend (Easter Sunday falls on March 31, 2024). The Lent is only observed Monday to Saturday each week because every Sunday is viewed as a celebration. In Pakistan, Christians traditionally observe Lent with prayers, abstinence, fasting, and almsgiving. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, everyone of age 18 to 59 must fast, unless exempt due to usually a medical reason, according to the faith scholars.

In his message, Pope Francis calls Lent a season of conversion, and a time of freedom, and emphasized that it was time to act, and in Lent to act also means to pause. “To pause in prayer, in order to receive the word of God, to pause like the Samaritan in the presence of a wounded brother or sister because love of God and love of neighbor are one love,” he said. For this reason, he said that prayer, almsgiving, and fasting were not three unrelated acts, but a single movement of openness and self-emptying.

“The great 40 days of Lent offer us gift of reconnecting with God in a new way as we pause, pray, refrain and give,” Janifer Khalid, student of administrative sciences in Lahore, told Jarida Daily. “Lent offers a lens with which one can approach life and can offer a respite in the midst of a busy life,” she said. “We turn our hearts and minds to God through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving,” she said about daily routine during this blessed season. “As Christian, I always think and rethink my lifestyles to evaluate and improve my contribution to the society,” she said.

  • It can be observed that fasting brings social, moral, spiritual, psychological, and health benefits to individuals and a society as a whole. Socially, fasting strengthens bonds through communal meals and encourages empathy for less fortunate. Morally, it promotes virtuous behavior and fosters a heightened awareness of one’s actions. Spiritually, fasting creates a balance between body and soul. Psychologically, it instills a sense of joy and fulfillment, while physically, it promotes overall well-being.

Latest