Qatar brings together people from various parts of the world with different faiths. Although the practice of religious fasting is most commonly attributed to Islam, many other religions engage in a form of fasting.

This year, Muslims, Catholics and Coptic Orthodox are fasting simultaneously. Although Muslims fast from eating or drinking anything including water from sunrise to sunset during the holy month of Ramadan, others fast from certain foods for more than a month.

In addition, this year, Ramadan, Passover and Easter overlap. The Jewish holiday of Passover or Pesach, took place from 15 to 23 April. Two days later, Christians celebrated Easter Sunday on 17 April. Both major holidays occur during the holy month of Ramadan, which began 2 April.

Many Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Easter is a ‘movable feast’ so the date depends on the ecclesiastical approximation of the March equinox. However, it is always observed on a Sunday between 22 March and 25 April. This year, for Catholics, Easter fell on 17 April and for Coptic Orthodox, Easter falls on 24 April.

The Catholic Church historically observes the disciplines of fasting and abstinence at various times each year. For Catholics during Lent, fasting is 40 days, consisting of lessening one’s intake of food, while abstinence refers to refraining from meat (or another type of food). In Western churches, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, six and a half weeks before Easter, and provides a 40-day period for fasting and abstinence (Sundays are excluded), in imitation of Jesus Christ’s fasting in the wilderness before he began his public ministry. In Eastern churches, Lent begins on the Monday of the seventh week before Easter and ends on the Friday that is nine days before Easter. This 40-day ‘Great Lent’ includes Saturdays and Sundays as relaxed fast days. The purpose of fasting is spiritual focus, self-discipline, imitation of Christ, and performing penance.

The Copts, who belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria, observe fasting periods according to the Coptic calendar, fasting between 180 to 210 days a year. Copts adhere to a vegan diet, thus abstaining from meat, fish, eggs, dairy and other animal products.

The Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. Jewish people traditionally observe this holy day with an approximate 25-hour period of fasting and intensive prayer, often spending most of the day in synagogue services. In Hinduism, there is a diverse range of fasting practices that depend on factors such as personal beliefs, local customs and preferred deities.

Intermittent fasting (IF) is also one of the world’s most popular health and fitness trends. IF is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating.

Author: Ola Diab

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