Fasting is a practice observed in every religion in some way or the other. However, Ramzan, the period of fasting for Muslims, is the longest and it is said the that the Prophet himself interceded on behalf of humanity by asking God to reduce the mandatory six months of fasting to one month.
On a deeper level, the meaning of fasting during Ramzan goes beyond just physical deprivation. It is a manifestation of love for the Divine by giving love to other human beings. So if one fasts one must understand the pangs of hunger and thirst suffered by the poor and one must accordingly give generously out of one's wealth.
During Ramzan, eating for oneself and to satisfy the senses is not recommended; instead one should break the fast and part take of Iftar with others, especially with those who cannot afford a meal. The spirit of fasting accommodates acts of charity and kindness to others.
The evening prayer, which is offered each night after the fast, is an indicator that the fast is for God and, therefore, communion with God is essential.
Scientifically speaking, fasting is considered good for health as it rids the body of toxins. But on a spiritual level, fasting means abstaining from indulgence in all kinds of desires and negative actions that removes the toxins of evil from the mirror of the soul so that it begins to reflect the love and mercy of God.
I remember the day when the true meaning of fast dawned on me. I was working in a school where I was the only Muslim. I can never forget those days of Ramzan when my students, colleagues and serving staff would join me at the time of Iftar and bring food and love to my table.
In today's materialistic world, it is easy to lose the true meaning of fasting by making it an ornate social ritual or an excuse for indulgence or a means to flaunt one's wealth. No need to say, the fast for God loses its importance.