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Sawm (صوم) is the Arabic word which refers to Islamic fasting. The observance of sawm during the Islamic month of Ramadan is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and therefore a compulsory (fard فرض) duty.
The salient features of Islamic fasting are:
- For 30 days every lunar year (during the month of Ramadan), waking up before dawn and eating and drinking to prepare for the fast
- Refraining from eating, drinking, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse from dawn (fajr) to sunset (maghrib).
- Breaking the fast at sunset and again eating and drinking to prepare for the day ahead.
The adverse effects of Islamic fasting are numerous and encompass such issues as health, national economy and productivity, crime rates, public safety and social behavior. In practice, Islamic fasting is unlike medical fasting. It is more accurately described as delayed eating; Muslims simply turn their eating habits upside down and gorge at dusk and at dawn.
Rules vary but fasting in Christianity is not compulsory, nor is it expected to be a complete fast. Meaning Christians generally reduce (not stop) their intake of food, and also drink freely during fasts. This is perfectly healthy and not comparable to the Islamic sawm. Similarly in Hinduism, fasting is a part of the religion, but individuals observe different kinds of fasts based on their personal beliefs and local customs.
Binge eating is a common habit during Ramadan. For example, in Egypt, national statistics point to a substantial increase in consumption of food, electricity, and medications related to digestive disorders during the month of Ramadan as compared with the monthly average in the rest of the year. Similarly in Doha, Qatar, almost 8,000 cases of indigestion were recorded at the Hamad Medical Hospital emergency room solely in the first week of Ramadan 2011, due to "most of the population sleeping during the day" and eating "large feasts".
Once the month of Ramadan comes to an end, Muslims then observe Eid ul-Fitr ("Festival of Fast-Breaking"), a day to celebrate the end of Ramadan. Eid celebrations include the unprecedented large-scale slaughter of at least a hundred million animals. In the Netherlands alone, which has little over a million Muslims, a 100,000 animals were slaughtered in 2010 for Eid al-Adha ("Festival of Sacrifice"). And in Pakistan, 7.5 million animals (2.5 million cows and 5 million goats) were slaughtered. Muslim children are often made to watch this slaughter.
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- Fasting - Wikipedia, accessed March 14, 2013
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- Abdel-Moneim Said - Wasting Ramadan - Al-Ahram Weekly, September 3, 2009
- Qatar: surge in diabetes/obesity, unhealthy Arab habits - ANSAmed, March 13, 2012
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- Netherland Muslims slaughtered 100,000 animals for Eid ul-Adha - Ahlul Bayt News, November 21, 2010
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- Sameen Tahir-Khan, "Celebrating Eid Al-Adha in the US", Arab News, October 18, 2013 (archived), http://www.arabnews.com/news/468058.