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.
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.
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.
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.