The fasting Jesus: from Muslim literature

As I continue to read Tarif Khalidi’s book, The Muslim Jesus, I come across wonderful saying and spiritually uplifting stories. As it is the month of Ramadan, the following are sayings and stories, I present from the book regarding Jesus and fasting. I have excerpted them less concerned about their authenticity, but in confidence that they will be of some inspiration.

Jesus said, “If it is a day of fasting for one of you, let him anoint his head and beard and wipe his lips so people will not know he is fasting. If he gives with the right hand, let him hide this from his left hand. If he prays, let him pull down the door curtain, for God apportions praise as He apportions livelihood.”[1

If you want to fast as Jesus did, he would fast all the time and lived on nothing but barley. He always wore [garments of] coarse hair, and wherever he would be at nightfall he would plant his feet and keep praying until he saw the break of dawn. He would never leave a particular place before praying two rak’as. If, however you want to fast as his mother the Virgin did, she used to fast for two days at a time then eat for two days.[2]

It is told that Jesus spent sixty days in intimate conversation with his Lord without eating. Then the thought of bread occurred to him and his intimacy was interrupted. At once a loaf of bread appeared in his hands, so he sat down and wept for the loss of intimacy. At that moment, an old man cast his shadow upon him and Jesus said to him, “God bless you, friend of God. Pray to God for me, for I was in a trance and the thought of bread occurred to me, and so my trance was interrupted.” The old man prayed, “O God! If you know that the thought of bread has occurred to me since I have known you, do not forgive me. On the contrary, if anything was brought before me, I would eat it without any thought of it.”[3]

Jesus exhorted some of his companions as follows: “Fast from the world and break your fast with death. Be like him who treats his wound with medicine lest it oppress him. Remember death often‑for death comes to the man of faith bringing good with no evil to follow; but to the evil man, it brings evil with no good to follow.”[4]


[1]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi , The Sayings and Stories no. 4 –  ‘Abdallah ibn al-Mubarak (d. 181/797), al- Zuhd, pp. 48-49 (no. 150). Cf. al-Ghazali, ihya’ Ulum al-Din, 3:287; Ibn ‘Asakir, Sirat, p. 175, no. 201 (Asin, p. 389, no. 55; Mansur, no. 137; Robson, p. 46).

[2]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The Sayings and Stories no. 146 –  Abu al-Layth al-Samarqandi (d.373/983), Tanbih al-Ghafilin, p. 125 (asin, p. 557, no. 139; Mansur, no. 39; Robson,pp.74-75).

[3]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The Sayings and Stories no. 209 –  Abu Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (d. 505/1111), Ihya’ `Ulum al-Din, 3:81 (Asin, p.362, no. 22; Mansur, no. 107; Robson, pp. 63-64). 

[4]The Muslim Jesus by Tarif Khalidi, The Sayings and Stories no. 280 –  Abu Muhyi al-Din ibn ‘Arabi (d.638/1240), al-futuhat al-makkiyya, 4:663 (Asin, p. 584, no. 194; Mansur, no. 225; Robson, p. 60)


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