Sunday, September 6, 2009

Cleansing through Fasting

We are in the holy month of Ramadan and it brings to our mind the need and necessity of fasting.
In Quran the verse that prescribes fasting also reminds us that it is a timeless spiritual practice and was prescribed to those who came before us.

In Exodus we find that: Moses fasted for forty days and forty nights while he was on the holy mountain with Divine Presence.
We read in the New Testament in the life of Jesus Christ how fasting was part of his inner practice as well: Jesus went into deep retreat and seclusion in the wilderness where he fasted for forty days and forty nights. And the tempter came and whispered to him: “if you are elect one of God, command these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered: “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone...” (Matthew, Luke 4:1-4)

Sufi master Vilayat Inayat Khan said, “One cannot bring to perceive the subtle levels of reality without first quieting the grosser vibrations of the outside world. Everyday reality is so striking that one has to make a conscious effort to downplay it in order to see the other reality that lies behind it.”
The Sufis says, the apparent (zahir) is the bridge to the real (haqq).
In Quranic metaphor we find when God created Adam; He breathed His Divine breath into his body. Probably inspired from this, Rumi compares the human body with the reed flute which has nine holes skilfully arranged and are played by the mysterious flute player. We need to become hollow so that the divine breath can flow through us and make sweet music. Purification of the body through fasting is a step where our body become less dense and more receptive.

In the Islamic wisdom tradition, though fasting's exterior is abstinence from food, drink, love-making for a prescribed time, but its interior is fasting from everything that is a hindrance to be mindful of God and that is against the natural disposition of human ideal, virtue (fitrah). There is fasting of the tongue not to speak abusive language, unnecessary speech and similar for ears and all part of the body. These inner components of fasting are as important as the fasting from food and drink.

We find in the Hadith: The Prophet said, "Whoever does not give up forged speech and negative actions, God is not in need of his leaving his food and drink"
“A keeper of fasts, who does not abandon lying and slandering, God cares not about his leaving off eating and drinking.”

In Rumi's words:
If your mind and stomach burn with the fire of hunger,
it will be like a heavenly song for your heart.
In each moment that fire rages, it will burn away a hundred veils
and carry you a thousand steps towards your goal.

(With due acknowledgement to Sadiq Alam’s article “Inner dimension of Ramadan”)

Love to you all


  1. We can see the significance of fasting in any religion we take.
    The dimensions attributed is for ‘thapa’ or cleansing.
    It is a good tool to be practiced by everyone so that we donot live always worldly-minded.

  2. Pramod,
    Thanks for your feedback.