1936-01-10 obligatory prayers and fasting
USBN #98 March 1936 p1
As regards fasting, it constitutes, together with the obligatory prayers, the two pillars that sustain the revealed Law of God. They act as stimulants to the soul, strengthen, revive and purify it, and thus insure its steady development.
The ordinance of fasting is, as is the case with these three prayers, a spiritual and vital obligation enjoined by Baha'u'llah upon every believer who has attained the age of fifteen. In the Aqdas He thus writes: "We have commanded you to pray and fast from the beginning of maturity; this is ordained by God, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers. He has exempted from this those who are weak from illness or age, as a bounty from His Presence, and He is the Forgiving, the Generous." And in another passage He says: "We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you Naw-Ruz as a feast. . . . The traveler, the ailing, those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the fast . . . . abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sundown, and beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book."
Also in the "Questions and Answers" that form an appendix to the Aqdas, Baha’u’llah reveals the following: "Verily, I say that God has appointed a great station for fasting and prayer. But during good health its benefit is evident, and when one is ill, it is not to fulfill them." Concerning the age of maturity, He reveals in the appendix of that same book: "The age of maturity is in the fifteenth year; women and men are alike in this respect."
Regarding the vital character and importance of the Divine ordinances and laws, and the necessity of complete obedience to them by the believers, we thus read in the Gleanings, p. 175: " Know verily that the essence of justice and the source thereof are both embodied in the ordinances prescribed by Him Who is the Manifestation of the Self of God amongst men, if ye be of them that recognize this truth. He doth verily incarnate the highest, the infallible standard of justice unto all creation. Were His law to be such as to strike terror into the hearts of all that are in heaven and on earth, that law is naught but manifest justice. The fears and agitation which the revelation of this law provokes in men's hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother's milk, if ye be of them that perceive…."
The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days, starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset. It is essentially a period of meditation and prayer, of spiritual recuperation, during which the believer must strive to make the necessary readjustments in his inner life, and to refresh and reinvigorate the spiritual forces latent in his soul. Its significance and purposes are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.
Shoghi Effendi, through his secretary