Muslims fast during the month of ‘Ramadan’, which is the ninth month of the Islamic calendar. The act of fasting starts from sunrise to sunset, and during that period we are not permitted to eat or drink. Fasting is compulsory once a person reaches puberty but you are exempted if you are old and sick. Children are encouraged to learn how to fast and this is done by easing them into it slowly such as having them fast for a few days during the fasting month, or by having them fast for half a day*
But the act of fasting isn’t really about abstaining yourself from eating or drinking during the day. It’s about self-control and is more about abstaining yourself from committing sin such as backbiting, being unkind to others, letting out anger get the best of us etcetera. If one can control themselves to not impulsively eat or drink which is a core basic need, then they will be able to control themselves from acting in a negative manner.
The fasting month is a month where we ‘cleanse’ ourselves (and when I say ‘cleanse’, I don’t mean the detox kind). It’s a month where we focus on leaving behind our bad habits and form good habits for us to practice the rest of the year because during the month of Ramadan, we are encouraged to do more good deeds and improve ourselves not just between ourselves and God, but with His creations as well.
Of course the aim of fasting in this context isn’t be a perfect Muslim or human being (because no one is perfect and human beings are prone to making errors). The aim here is to be a better version of yourself.
Fasting sounds like a big deal and if I had a penny for every time someone looks at me disbelief because ‘You can’t even drink?’, I would be richer than Bill Gates. But really, if you think about it, fasting is something practiced by other religions other than Islam. Christians fast during ‘Lent’. Buddhists and Hindus fast as well.
Fasting for less than a day isn’t actually a horrible thing because it lets you take a step back and focus on yourself and your values, and helps you be grateful for being able to at least eat in the end. There are so many people, especially children, who are in poverty who go on for much longer than that without eating or drinking.
You are not going to die for not eating for less than a day. Instead of focusing on the hours you spend not eating or drinking, you learn to focus on fasting from another angle and that is the fact that at the end of the day, you will still be able to eat and drink which is a privilege that not many have.
*My parents did this with me. I was a mischievous child though and sometimes I ‘forgot’ that I was fasting and only remembered after taking a sip of water. After that I would assume that my fast wasn’t valid anymore and continued to eat and drink.