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Islam religion is based on many different beliefs in the afterlife and fasting. The Islam religion is similar to Judaism in many ways. Jews and Muslims both believe in the afterlife and uphold fasting as an act of getting closer to God. Judaism and Islam share many principals, guidelines, and values. This is because the two religions share a common origin, which is the Middle East. However, there are many differences between the two religions in relation to their beliefs in the afterlife and fasting. Each religion has its fundamental laws and requirements regarding the fast and afterlife believes and expectations. The Judaism and Islamic religious laws are based on their traditions and cultures.
Islam and Judaism are known as the Abrahamic religions. This is simply because these religions trace their history and beliefs to the Abrahamic covenant with God. Both religions believe in God as the king and redeemer. However, there are many other differences between these religions. This paper seeks to compare and contrast the fasting practices and the afterlife beliefs of the two religions. It also seeks to carry out a study from a survey or interviews to establish the same.
Comparison of the Fasting Practices
Fasting is a practice or an act that entails abstaining from food and drinks for a particular period of time. Fasting is a very important part of the Hindu religion. The fasts are based on local customs and personal beliefs. The customs and beliefs include fasting on particular days of the months. For example, there are such fasts as Purnima, Pradosha and Ekadasi, fasting during certain days of the week depending on a favorite deity or on a personal belief, religious festival fasting, Tuesday fasting and Thursday fasting. Islam religion strictly follows fasting according to the customs. This is because fasting is a way of expressing deep sorrow or pain, a way of atoning for many different misdeeds, an attempt to stir spiritual feelings, a way to appeal to their moral sense, and a way of bringing different parties or quarreling parties together (Lewis, 1995).
There are many pillars in the Islam religion and fasting is the 5th pillar of the same. The most common fast is during the month of Ramadan among the Muslims. Fasting during this month is obligatory. The Muslim traditions during fasting prohibits drinking, eating and engaging in sexual activity. The Muslims are encouraged to put aside negative emotions such as addiction, anger, and temper. Ramadan is a very important part of the Islamic worship. The Muslims believe that by abstaining from food, drinks and bodily pleasures, they draw closer to God. The Muslims also believe that fasting during Ramadan shows their devotion to God and their sincere faith in God.
According to the Quran, which is the Muslims’ Holy book, fasting prevents sin, promotes humility and chastity; and thus, it is a shield to protect the Muslims against themselves. They believe that during the fasting period they also abstain from lustful thoughts, indecent speech, falsehood and many other evils. This simply means that the fasting helps to control many different impulses and thus, develop decent and good behavior. Muslims also believe that they must never fall short of performing any duty or tending to their commitments; thus, they strive to attain and apply virtuous characteristics. During the month of Ramadan, the Muslims exercise patients, control their anger, show mercy to other people, show generosity to others, and try to show compassion. In this way, they uphold good characters and moral habits.
According to Islam beliefs and traditions, fasting inculcates many different emotions such as solidarity and fraternity. The Muslims believe that these feelings allow them to experience and feel what their homeless brothers all over the world are experiencing and feeling. This tradition and belief teaches the Muslims self control and patience. Islamists can only be exempted from obligatory fasting if a person suffers from a serious illness, if a person is in transit and may miss certain days of the fast, during a woman’s menstrual period, if a woman has just given birth, if a woman is pregnant, if a woman is breast feeding, and if a person is mentally ill. The month of Ramadan is that in which the Quran was sent down as a guide for the people and as clear guidance to salvation. The one who witnesses this moth must fast it. But the one who is sick or in a journey, should fast a number of other days. God desires ease for you, not hardship. You must complete the number, and praise God for that to which he has guided you; perhaps you will be thankful” (The Quran, 2: 183 – 185).
On the other hand, Judaism observes fasting traditions by abstaining completely from food and liquids. This tradition is observed by the Jews for six days in a year. In the Judaism traditions fasting is not permitted during the Shabbat. The most important fasting day in the Jewish year is the Yom Kippur, which is considered as the holy day. Fasting on this day clearly shows that an individual has completely complied with and participated in a full religious service. The major fasts in Judaism are the Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av. These fasts are observed for two days, while minor fasts are observed for a day.
Ashkenazic is a tradition that allows the bride and groom to fast during the wedding period or on the wedding day. Apart from official fasting days, the Jews have other communal and personal fasts. These fasts help the Jews to seek repentance and forgiveness during impending calamities or face of a tragedy. The Jews belief fasting is a way of driving away an impending tragedy from a bad dream. Fast can also be declared in drought periods in order to pray for rain and fertility from the ground (Chajes, 2011).
Jews fast in order to achieve atonement of sins as specified in the divine service. This does not mean that fasting is the primary way of achieving or obtaining atonement from their sins, but it is one of the ways to achieve and obtain atonement for their sins because it helps to precipitate contrition. The Jews believe that hardships and calamities according to the Hebrew bible are circumstances which may occur because of wrong doing. The other purpose of fasting according the Jews beliefs and traditions is commemorating mourning.
This type of fast demonstrates the morning for the loss of the Temple in Jerusalem. This helps the Jews to show appreciation for the temple which was destroyed. “Be glad about Jerusalem, and exult in her, all those who love her rejoice in her celebrations, all those who were mourners over her” (Isaiah 66: 10, Hebrews bible). This means that the mourning indicates the happiness over the return of the loss. The other reason why the Jews fast is in order to commemorate gratitude. The Jewish people abstain from food and drink in order to focus on spiritual aspects. This is a kind of dedication that shows God gratitude for providing salvation. It also shows their dependence on God.
Similarities of Fasting Practices between the Jews and the Muslims
In both religions fasting was and still is a practice that prepared the members to approach God. Fasting is, therefore, characterized by abiding by prescribe rules in order to reach a transcendent state. These rules may include abstaining from food, drinks or sexual activity. Fasting may also be used in religions to express political and social views. Both religions have regulations during the fasting periods and ceremonies (Johnson, 2003, p. 124).
Comparison of the Afterlife Beliefs
The afterlife is a very important and fundamental belief in Judaism. The Jews believe that the creation of God is enough to testify the afterlife of the souls. The Jews believe that the soul of men is actually part of God’s essence. “And the Almighty formed man of dust, from the ground and he blew into his nostrils the soul of life” (Genesis 2: 7, Jewish Bible). The eternal soul or afterlife, according to the Jewish belief, is as real as the thumb. They believe that in the world to come people will experience reality eternally and find ultimate justice from another dimension.
The Jews believe that the afterlife is what a person experiences after death, because after death comes judgment. In this case, the next world is called the world of truth, because individuals have to face the truth about their lives before death. Heaven, according to the Jews, is a place after death where the soul will experience great pleasure and joy. This simply means that Judaism traditions do not perceive death as the end of human life but believe that there is an afterlife. However, the Judaism teachings on afterlife are very mild and thus leave a lot of room for speculation and personal opinions (Johnson, 2003).
Afterlife has also played very important part and role in Islam teachings and beliefs. For example, the Muslim terrorist believe that after a suicide mission, they will ascend to heaven. According to the Muslim faith, death is the end of the physical life and the righteous will see God’s visions after death, while the wicked will see hell’s visions after death. Muslims believe that the afterlife to heaven is jannat, while afterlife to hell is jahannam, and that each person will be responsible for the kind of judgment that they receive. The judgments, according to Muslims, will be based on the people’s deed and intentions before death. The Quran tells and speaks of terrible events that will take place as a sign of the end of the world, and that the bridge of Sarat is the place where the fire of hell will burn.
Paradise is, however, a peaceful and blissful place. The Quran describes it this way: “And God will guard them from evil of the day and will cast on them brightness and joy; and their reward for their patience shall be paradise and silk! Reclining therein upon coaches they shall neither see therein sun neither piercing cold. (20) When thou sees them, thou shall see pleasure and great estate. On them shall be garments of green embroidered satin and brocade; and they shall be adorned with bracelets of sliver; and their lord shall give them to drink pure drink! Verily this is a reward for you, and your efforts are thanked” (Surah 76: 11 – 22, Quran).
The Islamic faith provides graphic and very clear details of the afterlife. The Muslims view the afterlife as natural threshold to the next part of existence. This doctrine believes that after death, humans exist in spiritual form. This is one of the most important or fundamental beliefs that complete the Muslim faith. The rejection of this belief, according to the Muslim faith, renders all other beliefs useless. The other Islamic beliefs about the afterlife are that the end of the world will be preceded by the resurrection. They also believe that unbelievers and those who rejected the calls by the prophets will be punished in hell (Lewis, 1995, p.102).
Similarities of Afterlife Beliefs
Both Judaism and Islam religions believe that there is an afterlife. They also believe that the wrong doers will be judged according to their acts and those who do right will be judged according to their righteousness. Both religions believe that there is a heaven for the good and a hell for the wrong doers. However, both religions have different points of view on the same. In this case, their belief is based on good deeds, faith and practicing all the pillars of their religions. This simply means perpetuating the faith as taught by the scriptures and the prophets.
An interview was carried out by the Atlas foundation to examine the beliefs of Jews and Muslims in relation to the afterlife and fasting. This particular group represented members from both religions. The reason for conducting this interview was to promote acceptance and understanding among the members of the group. The findings from the interview showed that in Islam, fasting is not only obligatory but it also plays a very important part of the Muslim religion. However, the Muslims also have voluntary fasts, which help them to grow spiritually. The Muslims from this group also asserted that every Muslim fasts regardless of age or sex. The Muslim from the group also informed the others in the group that Ramadan takes place in the ninth month of the Muslims’ religious calendar and that it is the man fast in Islam (Grumet, 2010, p. 88).
The Muslims from the group tried to make the other people understand what the Muslim fast entails. They explained that the Muslims completely abstain from intimate intercourse, food and drinks. They also explained that once the fast is broken, the Muslims invite the poor to eat and dine with them. This simply means that Islam calls for every member who has missed the fast days to make up for them.
On the other hand, Judaism does not ask their members to make up for the missed fast days, according to some Jewish group members. According to the Jewish members from the group, Yom Kippur is the only fast that is allowed and ordained in the Jews Torah. It is one of the most commonly observed fasts in the Jewish religion. The fasting period, according to the Jews, is a period in which they return to God. This is also a day when all the Jews seek forgiveness, forgive and pause to reflect on their physical self and their spiritual self.
The other main fasting ceremony, according to the Jews from the group, is the Tisha B’Av, which started 2000 years ago when the holy temple was destroyed by the Romans. The Jews were then driven away and banished from their homes and land (Grumet, 2010). Therefore, this fast commemorates the dark and painful day when the temple was destroyed. The interview helped to bring Muslims and Jews understand and appreciate the beliefs on the afterlife and fasting from Islam and Judaism. This ensured that they understood and respected the beliefs and traditions of both religions.
The Islamic law is known as the Sharia, while the Judaism law is known as the Halakha. Both these religions believe that these laws are a form of worship. The laws guide and instruct Jews and Muslims on the afterlife and fasting. The beliefs and fasting practices are based on the teachings from the scriptures and prophets.
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