The Bahá'í Fast:
The Purpose of Fasting
“This material fast is an outer token of the spiritual fast; it is a symbol of self-restraint, the withholding of oneself from all appetites of the self, taking on the characteristics of the spirit, being carried away by the breathings of heaven and catching fire from the love of God.”
“Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. This is produced by the fact that man's thoughts will be confined to the commemoration of God, and through this awakening and stimulation surely ideal advancements follow.”
“Even though outwardly the Fast is difficult and toilsome, yet inwardly it is bounty and tranquillity.”
“All praise be unto God, Who hath revealed the law of obligatory prayer as a reminder to His servants, and enjoined on them the Fast that those possessed of means may become apprised of the woes and sufferings of the destitute.”
“Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, whose knowledge embraceth all created things.”
· The Bahá’í Fast starts after the Intercalary Days (Ayyám-i-Há), and ends at Naw-Rúz. It lasts for one Bahá’í month, the month of Alá, which means Loftiness. It therefore takes place during 19 days, from the 2nd March to the 20th March inclusive.
· No food and drink may be taken between sunrise and sunset. This is approximately 12 hours at this time of year. This also means no smoking between these times. In places near the Arctic and Antarctic circles, clocks are used to measure the day instead of using the sun.
· Bahá’ís should keep the Fast from the age of maturity, which is 15. After the age of 70 they need not fast.
· Those who are ill should not fast:
“In clear cases of weakness, illness or injury the law of the Fast is not binding.”
· Those who are doing heavy manual work need not fast. They should show respect for the law by eating “with frugality and in private”.
“The law of the Fast is ordained for those who are sound and healthy; as to those who are ill or debilitated, this law hath never been nor is now applicable.”
· Those who are travelling need not fast, if the journey is longer than 9 hours.
· A journey is the whole period of travel, from leaving one place until arriving at the destination, it is not just the time spent in a car, train, boat, plane, etc.
· Those who are travelling on foot need not fast, if the journey is longer than 2 hours.
· If a traveller arrives at a place during the Fast, and is going to stay there for at least 19 days, he or she should fast following the first 3 days after arrival.
· If a traveller stays in one place for less than 19 days, he or she need not keep the Fast during that time.
· Travellers who reach home during the Fast should start fasting from the day after they arrive.
· Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should not fast.
· Women need not fast during a period, provided that each day they perform their ablutions (washing of the hands and face) and repeat 95 times “Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty”. In this case a day means between one noon and the next.
The day of the spring equinox which signals the end of the Fast is a Holy Day for Bahá'ís. This is the first day of the new year and is known as Naw-Rúz. It is a time of celebration, of starting the new year spiritually refreshed.
“We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you Naw-Rúz as a feast.”
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