SHAFAQNA – Fasting during the daylight hours during the month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam, and therefore considered to be of great importance. In addition, Islam promises exceptional rewards to Muslims who also observe optional fasts on Monday and Thursday of each week, the three days each month when the moon is full, on the day of Ashurah and either the day before or the day after it, or during Hajj (Sura 2:196), and other occasions. Fasting clearly plays a large role in Islam, causing many Muslims to wonder why Christians don’t seem to fast the same way.
The truth is that many Christians do fast. Jesus once fasted from food for 40 days (Matthew 4; Luke 4). Early Christians often fasted during special times of prayer (Acts 13:1-5; 14:23; 27:9). However, there are some ways in which fasting is different in the Christian tradition.
First and foremost, Christians do not fast in order to earn their salvation. Salvation is based on faith alone in Jesus Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9). Not fasting during Ramadan jeopardizes a Muslim’s ability to be with Allah in Paradise. In Christianity, fasting or not fasting has nothing to do with whether a Christian goes to heaven.
Christians are taught to fast without drawing attention to themselves. Jesus taught, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:16-18). It is not wrong for a Christian to tell someone he or she is fasting. However, it is important that this act of humility is done for God, not for the attention of others. As a result, Muslims (and others) don’t see Christians fasting and often think they are not fasting at all.
Though Christians occasionally fast in community, many fast on an individual basis—often to seek wisdom, pray for God’s will in a particular situation, or as a step of faith and obedience to God. Rather than observe a set fasting schedule, many Christians fast in response to the prompting of the Holy Spirit or in conjunction with life circumstances.
Some Christians do not fast because they do not know the Bible’s teachings about fasting. Jesus, the early church’s leaders, early Christians, and Christians throughout the history of the church have fasted as a spiritual practice. However, many modern Christians have not joined in this practice either due to ignorance of its importance or in disobedience. In some cases, individual Christians also do not fast due to health reasons.
In summary, fasting is an important spiritual tradition to both Muslims and Christians. However, many differences can be seen, some of which have caused Muslims to wonder why Christians do not fast. However, many Christians have fasted and continue to do so, usually privately, as an act of worship to God.