In addition to being a divine obligation for Muslims, fasting is also an experience that the majority of human civilizations have practiced since ancient times.
For the Canaanites, fasting as mentioned in mythological texts was considered one of the most important pillars of religious beliefs. They devoted thirty continuous days to fasting, considering that the appearance of the crescent-shaped moon in each lunar month was caused by the wrath of the god El (Lord of Lords and the Absolute High Master whom no one could imagine).
Therefore, fasting was considered to be a necessity in order to draw closer to El, as well as a behavior that represented submission to El so that they could make atonement and be forgiven for their mistakes.
Fasting for the Canaanites was a means of getting closer to the gods, and a means of purification and self-elevation
The act of fasting was associated with Ishtar, the goddess of nature (fertility), and the moon, the symbol of femininity. The full moon meant the beginning of Ishtar’s menstrual period. Therefore, the Canaanites refrained from having sex until the moon reached the stage of the new moon (complete absence) when it is renewed. Fasting for the Canaanites was a means of getting closer to the gods, and a means of purification and self-elevation.
One of the rituals of fasting among the Canaanite Syrians is that the senior clergy and their disciples performed a ritual full washing before beginning the fast in order to achieve spiritual and physical purity while curbing all desires, and achieving the highest levels of enlightenment and mental clarity
The duration of the Canaanite’s fasting was thirty days during which they refrained from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset. After sunset, dairy, plants, oils, wheat, barley, and similar natural products were the basic foods consumed for breakfast. It is natural that this ritual of fasting is commensurate with the abundance of vegetables and oil in this geographical spot, making it possible to fast continuously for days without eating food sourced from creatures with souls.
They chose to observe their month of fasting during the months of the year in which hunting and slaughtering of livestock were over. During these months the hunting of animals was forbidden in order to preserve their reproduction which prevented their becoming extinct. They attributed this ritual to the orders of their gods who took charge of the management of nature. Their fasting was attributed to the name of the god who was the master of heaven in their time (e.g., fasting for the god El, Baal, Id, or the god of the sun… etc).
When Judaism came, the ritual of fasting was observed as a law from their God as well and was continued by the followers of Jesus Christ
One of the rituals of fasting among the Canaanite Syrians is that the senior clergy and their disciples performed a ritual full washing before beginning the fast in order to achieve spiritual and physical purity while curbing all desires, and achieving the highest levels of enlightenment and mental clarity so that their sins would be expiated and forgiven. In terms of personal benefit, they believed that fasting ensures the development and stimulation of the potential of the body.
When Judaism came, the ritual of fasting was observed as a law from their God as well and was continued by the followers of Jesus Christ. Originally Jews, the initial followers of The Way (what Jesus’ followers originally called the observance of their religion) eventually became known as Christians who also abstained from eating meat during the forty days of the Lenten fast before Easter.
With the dawn of Islam, the Prophet Muhammad came in a desert environment where vegetables and oils are scarce, so fasting became commensurate with the natural environment. Thus, it was necessary to prevent hunting and slaughtering some animals in the sacred months to deter the intake of food from dawn to sunset for the period of the lunar Ramadan month.
In the civilization of Mesopotamia (Babylonian, Assyrian, Sumerian… etc.), fasting was a ritual very similar to the Syrian fasting ritual.