How does fasting start in Hinduism?
If a person intends to fast he prepares and takes his food on the day before the fast-day at noon, cleans his teeth, and fixes his thoughts on the fasting of the following day. From that moment he abstains from food. On the morning of the fast-day he again cleans his teeth, washes himself, and performs the rituals of the day. He takes water in his hand, and sprinkles it into all four directions; then he pronounces the name of the deity for whom he fasts, and remains in this condition till the day after the fast-day. After the sun has risen, he is free to break the fast at that moment if he likes, or, if he prefers, he may postpone it till noon.(1)
Kinds of Fasting in Hinduism
If a person breaks his fast when the sun has risen, this kind of fasting is called Upvasa, but if a person fasts from one noon to the following it is called Lakant, not Upvasa. Another kind of fasting is called Krichra, if a person takes his food on some day at noon, and on the following day in the evening. On the third day he eats nothing except what by chance is given to him without asking. On the fourth day he fasts.
Another kind of fasting is called Parak, if a person takes his food at noon on three consecutive days. Then he transfers his eating-hour to the evening during three further consecutive days. Then he fasts uninterruptedly during three consecutive days without breaking fast.
Another kind of fasting is called Chandrayn, if a person fasts on the day of full moon; on the following day he takes only a mouthful, on the third day he takes double this amount, on the fourth day the threefold of it, going on thus till the day of new moon. On that day he fasts; on the following days he again diminishes his food by one mouthful a day, till he again fasts on the day of full moon.
Another kind is called Masaupvasa, if a person uninterruptedly fasts all the days of a month without ever breaking fast.(2)
Sawm Al-Wisal (continuous fasting) in Islam
We would like here to address the issue of continuous fasting in Islam. Sawm Al-Wisal means to fast day after another continuously without interruption; if a person fasted a day and did not eat or drink anything until the second day and then continued his fasting and did not eat anything and drink any thing and kept fasting the other day, this type of fasting is called Sawm Al-Wisal, whether the fasting lasted for two or more days. This type of fasting is prohibited in Islam.
The fast of the Prophet (peace be upon him) continuously was his special distinctions. In some matters the Prophet (peace be upon him) had some specific commandments which were obligatory for him but not for his followers. Such things were permissible for him but not for his nation. All these things are called his special distinctions.
It is not permissible for Muslims to follow such practices. One of these things is Sawm Al-Wisal, which means to observe fast for several days without taking any food at all. Since Allah had granted the Prophet (peace be upon him) special power and patience, he could observe fast continuously for days. But his followers are not endowed with that energy and patience; so they are not permitted to do so. Because Sawm Al-Wisal may weaken human body and may lead to self-destruction which is not permissible in Islam.(3) There are two narrations in this regard:
1) Abu Hurairah and `Aishah (may Allah be pleased with them) said: The Prophet (peace be upon him) prohibited observing continuous voluntary fasts further than one day. (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
2) Ibn `Umar (may Allah be pleased with them) said: The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) prohibited observing continuous fasts more than one day. The companions submitted: “But you do it.” He replied, “I am not like you. I am given to eat and to drink (from Allah).” (Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Hindu months and related fasting
This is about the types of fasting in Hinduism according to the intention of a devotee. There are some rewards on fasting in Hindu religion, but most of these rewards are related to this worldly life, such as the devotee will get fame, fortune and love of women, etc.
If a man fasts all the days of Chitra, he obtains wealth and joy over the nobility of his children.
If he fasts Vaisakha, he will be a lord over his tribe and great in his army.
If he fasts Jytha, he will be a favorite of the women.
If he fasts Ashadha, he will obtain wealth.
If he fasts Sravana, he obtains wisdom.
If he fasts Bhadrapada, he obtains health, wealth, riches and cattle.
If he fasts Asvayuja, he will always be victorious over his enemies.
If he fasts Kartika, he will be grand in the eyes of people and will obtain his wishes.
If he fasts Margasirsha, he will be born in the most beautiful and fertile country.
If he fasts Pausha, he obtains a high reputation.
If he fasts Magha, he obtains innumerable wealth.
If he fasts Phalguna, he will be beloved.(4)
Rewards of fasting in Islam
We have seen in the previous lines that most of the rewards of fasting in Hindu religion are associated with this life, such as getting money, wealth and prestige, etc. According to Islam, this life and its all pleasures are little when compared with the Hereafter.
In Islam, the rewards of fasting are the most comprehensive and complete. Though there are many verses in the Glorious Qur’an and many Hadiths of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that show the reward of fasting. The most important reward of this worship is the pleasure of Allah the Almighty. We refer here to two Hadiths that mentioned the reward of fasting.
1) The Prophet (peace be upon him) said that Allah the Almighty said: “Every action of the son of Adam is given manifold reward, each good deed receiving (reward of) ten times its like, up to seven hundred times. Allah the Most High said, ‘Except for fasting, for it is for Me and I will give recompense for it, he leaves off his desires and his food for Me.’ (Al-Bukhari).
2) The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “There is a gate in Paradise called Ar-Rayyan, and those who observe fasts will enter through it on the Day of Resurrection and none except them will enter through it. It will be said: ‘Where are those who used to observe fasts?’ They will get up, and none except them will enter through it. After their entry the gate will be closed and nobody will enter through it.” (Al-Bukhari)
But fasting in Hinduism is observed for different deities as was previously mentioned. A Hindu brother says in this regard: “A vrata can be taken during a religious festival, or a pilgrimage, and also in conjunction with pursuing some goal in life, which may include material or spiritual well being or success. Vratas are applied following ritually significant and meaningful patterns, depending on which deity is addressed or which goal is pursued.”(5)
Is Drinking Juice Permissible during Fasting in Hinduism?
Some kinds of fasting in Hinduism are partial not entirely, contrary to what is known in Islam. Fasting in Islam, whether supererogatory or obligatory includes complete abstinence from eating, drinking and sexual intercourse. If a Muslim intends fasting, it is not permissible for him to drink even a drop of water, juice or milk, even drinking a drop of water or a drop of juice or milk invalidates his fast. Similarly, if he eats anything of fruits or vegetables or food cooked or uncooked, his fast becomes invalid;this is from dawn up to sunset. However, in Hinduism some types of fasting means abstinence from certain food so drinking water or juice will not invalidate his fast.
A Hindu writer says in this context: “You can fast from all food, or only from solid food. You can choose a one day fast with only: water fresh fruit juice, fresh vegetable juice, raw fruit and raw vegetables, avoiding during the fast cooked vegetables, cooked whole grains, whole grain flour products, bread, pasta, etc.”(6)
This type of fasting leads some Hindu brothers to eat some food eagerly, which is not included in his fast and rush to some other foods greedily. This has been criticized by a Hindu brother in a style of irony, who says:
“Today, you will see people with plates overflowing with puris and pakoras who say they are fasting. There are phalharI chapatis, saboodana kichari and so many other hearty foods that we barely even notice it is a fast. I have heard that there is even a recipe for phalhari pizza dough!”(7)
The Time of Fasting in Hinduism
In Hinduism, some fast begins from sunrise up to sunrise of another day, a Hindu brother inquired about the timing of the Maha Shivaratri fast if it is a sunrise to sunrise fast? If the fast would be started from sunrise on the 12th of February (the day of Shivaratri) and would be broken after sunrise on the day after (13 February).
Then the answer was: “The Mahashivratri fasting begins on the morning of Shivratri and ends on the next day morning or the Amavasya morning.(8)
What is Karwa Chauth?
Karwa Chauth is a particular fast in Hinduism which is observed by only married Hindu women in some parts of India for the wellbeing, prosperity, and longevity of their husbands.
There is no fasting in Islam particular for wife; rather, woman and man both are equal in fasting. Also the reward of fasting would be for the faster not for his/her spouse.
After we have presented some aspects of fasting in Hindu religion, we would like to point out a few notes.
First: The presence of fasting in Hinduism is a positive sign and a common denominator between Hinduism and Islam and other religions of the world which shows the importance of fasting for mankind.
Second: Fasting in Hindu society is a mixture of idolatry and polytheism as was stated by Al-Beruni. The worship of fasting in Hinduism is devoted to different gods and deities during every month and festival. While fasting in Islam is only for the pleasure of One God that is Allah the Almighty. However, this does not mean absence of other physical and spiritual benefits in fasting. The worship of fasting in Islam is based on the commandment of Allah the Wise. That is why, it bears many benefits for human being, though some of those benefits have been revealed by the modern medical science.
Third: Hindu religion is devoid of texts that can determine if the sexual intercourse during fasting is invalid or valid. We should bear in mind that angels neither eat nor drink; they are only absorbed in the worship of Allah. When a Muslim fast he tries to imitate them in their habits, that entails that sexual intercourse also must be avoided during the fast so that the imitation would be complete as the angels are free from carnal desires. Moreover, the Hindu ascetics use to fast and renounce all worldly desires including wife, son, wealth, house and all belongings and many Hindu monks still abstain from everything related to this world. The absence of ruling about sexual intercourse during fasting in Hindu scriptures is a serious issue? This denotes that Hindu scriptures have been twisted and distorted over times.
Fourth: It is only Hinduism where you can imagine a partial fasting or abstaining from some particular food or drink.
Fifth: Islam is characterized by mass fasting. Muslims fast all over the world in one month, Ramadhan the ninth month of Islamic calendar, but there is no concept of mass fasting in Hinduism similar to the fasting in Ramadhan.
Sixth: Fasting in the Hindu religion is a voluntary and individual worship not an obligatory and collective ritual, as was stated by Al-Beruni. However, Islam is characterized by both types of fasting; obligatory and supererogatory. The fast of Ramadhan is compulsory on every Muslim, sane, adult and capable. But who is sick or on a journey he will fast when he is healthy and capable after Ramadhan. As well as a pregnant and nursing woman is allowed to remain without fasting and she will make up for those days when her situation was changed. Fasting is prohibited for a menstruating woman and for the woman after child-birth due to their unstable psychology and health. Some types of fasting are supererogatory in Islam like the fasting on every Monday and Thursdays, and every 13th, 14th and 15th of every month as per Islamic calendar.
We pray Allah the Almighty to guide us to the straight path and accept our fasting.
(1) Al-Beruni’s India, translated by DR. EDWARD C. SACHAU, LONDONKEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRUBNER & CO. Ltd. DKYDEN HOUSE, GERRAKD STREET, W.1910, Vol.2nd p.157.
(3) See: Badr Ad-Din Al-A`yni, `Umdat Al-Qari: A commentary on Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dar Al-Fikr, vol. 10, p. 300.
(4) Al-Beruni’s India, p.157.
(5) http://www.speakingtree.in/spiritual-slideshow/seekers/faith-and-rituals/sex-during-fasting-whats-wrong-in-it (Last accessed on 18-6-2014).
(6) http://www.falconblanco.com/health/fasting.htm (Last accessed on 19-6-2014).
(7) http://www.parmarth.com/updates/april2002/message.htm (Last accessed on 20-6-2014).
(8) http://www.hindudharmaforums.com/showthread.php?t=5280(Last accessed on 15-6-2014).