Which Religions Require Fasting and When?

Matthew F.

Many religions require fasting as an act of penance, obligation, or faith. The act of abstaining from food or drink is usually practiced in different religions for a set period of time. It is exercised as a sign of sacrifice to a god, and many religions worldwide have prescribed days and times for fasting. Some periods are continuous for a number of days, and some allow eating and drinking after sunset. Some are strictly prohibiting, and some allow certain foods. Fasting is, in almost all cases, an important act of the devout, and is practiced in Islam, Catholicism, and Buddhism, among many other religions.

Dates, which are traditionally eaten to break the Ramadan fast.
Dates, which are traditionally eaten to break the Ramadan fast.

Fasting is an essential part of the Hindu religion, and is varied in different localities. The rules of Hinduism are flexible, allowing varying lengths of abstinence at various times. Different devotees fast on different days according to a number of deities, and many festivals can be fasted on, though they do not have to be. Judaism, on the other hand, is strict in its rules, and requires completely abstaining from food, drink, and water for up to six days a year, including Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. In Judaism, it is a form of atonement.

Muslims are expected to fast during parts of the Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca.
Muslims are expected to fast during parts of the Hajj, which is a pilgrimage to Mecca.

Islam, like Judaism, enforces strict rules upon the devout. Followers of the Muslim faith are obliged to fast during the holy month of Ramadan, every day from dawn to sunset. There are also many non-obligatory days throughout the Islamic calendar, where Muslims are prohibited from food, drink, smoking, and sexual interactions. Fasting is one of the most important actions of the Islamic faith and is known as one of the Pillars of Islam. Also observing obligatory fasts from sunrise to sunset, the Baha’i Faith of Western and Central Asia establishes the practice as a period of meditation and prayer.

Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for the entire holy month of Ramadan.
Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset for the entire holy month of Ramadan.

Though it is not required in most Christian denominations, fasting is practiced by many Christians as an external observance. It can be found in the Bible with Moses, King David, and Jesus, and is seen with the reduction of meals and the abstinence from meat on Fridays during Lent in Roman Catholicism. In Anglicanism, it is practiced on many saints' feast days, while Eastern Orthodoxy has four different fasting seasons, including two different stretches of 40 days.

Fasting is also an important tenet of the Buddhist faith, practiced by monks and nuns, but not by lay Buddhists. It is practiced in many minor religions as well, including Jainism, an ancient religion of India; Raelism, a recent French religion founded in the 1970s; the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, on the first Sunday of each month; and Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians on varying days.

Traditional Judaism requires believers to fast on Yom Kippur and several additional days each year.
Traditional Judaism requires believers to fast on Yom Kippur and several additional days each year.

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Discussion Comments


The Bible speaks of fasting as mentioned earlier for supplication, demonstration of thankfulness, intercession, sacrifice, etc.

I, being a Bible believer follow this practice because Jesus said to follow him. If great prophets and leaders did this and were able to hear from God, find direction or revelations, please God or save others through intercession, I also wish to do the same because it benefits the body of Christ as well as deepens my own personal relationship.

Yes, it seems God is lenient with Christians, leaving it up to us in the process of how to fast because he wishes us to draw near to him out of love. He does not wish to force us as should be with real love. A successful relationship is not forced. The same way if I wish to please God I will follow his example because of love.

The way I see it, if God gave His people the instruction of how to fast and they were blessed by it, why not reap the same blessings as well? The know how is in His book.

I have done half-day fasts to 24 hours on only water, vegetable fasts and even an oatmeal fast (I still cringe at the memory), but my friends, the one I have been most blessed by was a week fast on only water.

There are different fasting methods, and I encourage those who feel they are being called to do so to follow God's will, for however you feel he wants you to, maybe it is fasting from entertainment or other simple pleasures which take a lot of our time, but if it is what you feel God wants for a time you will be blessed in your own relationship with God. --Sarah


@anon82803: The book of Matthew is part of the New Testament in every Bible I have ever seen, read, or used. I'm not sure where you found your Bible, but it isn't one that the majority of Christians worldwide use.


Orthodox Christianity (the Christian Church that still holds true to the original teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ) requires fasting.


The religion I was raised in, which is a form of witchcraft, teaches that on the eighth of every month, we are to cast the lots to see if its a Random Ritual Day. If it is, Hamari begins, which is a time of fasting and prayer. Hamari ends when the lots decide and this can go on for just a day or several.

The longest I ever was in fasting was 11 days and it was such an experience. I enjoyed it once the first few days of hunger had ended.


Fasting is definitely required by Christians. As a Catholic, I assure you that those who are ill and those who are 60 years or older are exempt from fasting. Friday is our fasting day and on other days we may choose to fast and pray. For fasting we are only allowed a vegetarian fare, chicken or other fowl, and fish. No meat is allowed.


Fasting is a way of giving sacrifice to God and humbling yourself.


I wonder why God was toughest on Muslims in terms

of fasting, middle with Jews and least with Christians, the same one God that created us all equally?

First of all, I believe and have seen many people from all religions fast in some way from some things with or without fasting days.

In some ways, everyone fasts, but I just think everyone must have the same fasting rules for all religions then we can all live equally. One extreme, one little bit is not equal in my world.

Personally, I have never understood why spiritual

things like fasting have been toughest on Muslims only, because I know all imposed inequalities. I no longer wonder.


@anon82692...Matthew 6.16 is still part of the Old Testament.

Jesus was preaching to the Jews. The "Church" was not established until the "Day of Pentecost" therefore the Apostle Paul preached to the gentiles.

Paul has no instruction on "fasting".


Matthew 6:16 "And when you fast..."

not "if" you fast but "when"

Jesus did expect his followers to fast.


I being a Christian, fasting is not required!

Jesus is Jewish, and it is mostly a Jewish requirement of their faith in Eliom. Even though fasting is not a Christian requirement of our faith, I do sacrifice on some days (temporary) and some things I have sacrificed permanently -- all with prayer and supplication.

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