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Why we fast

By Elias Karmi

The month of Ramadan is when Muslims worldwide are required to fast, meaning to refrain completely from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset. It is also a month when Muslims perform more worship than they would during the rest of the year: praying more at night, reading more Qur’an, giving more in charity, etc.

A question that I hear frequently from my Minnesotan colleagues is: “Why do you do that?” – meaning, why do we fast. To Muslims, God’s order to fast is more than enough reason to do it, regardless of its health benefits that have been revealed over the years. But the question carries an interesting subtlety. The way the question is verbalized and the body language used suggest my colleagues are really asking: “Why do you have to make yourself suffer so much?” or “Why do you have to put yourself through this for a whole month?”

Looking deeper into the question, it is not the act of fasting itself that fascinates Americans; the principle of fasting is well established in several religions. Rather, it is the humility it takes for someone to submit, to the degree that fasting for a month per year becomes normal. To someone looking from the outside, it would appear as if Muslims are subjecting themselves to something they should refuse.
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