The Bahá’í Fast
Fasting is the voluntary abstention from food and drink. Periods of fasting are found in all of the major world religions, and the practice has been significant throughout human history. For Bahá’ís, fasting is observed from sunrise to sunset during the Bahá’í month of `Ala’ (Loftiness), between March 1st/2nd through March 19th/20th, which immediately precedes the Bahá’í New Year. It is a a time of prayer, meditation, and spiritual rejuvenation. Along with obligatory prayer, it is one of the greatest obligations of a Bahá’í and is intended to bring the person closer to God.
Abdu’l-Bahá, as in most things, describes the spiritual experience of the fast with inspiring precision:
“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.”
“O God! As I am fasting from the appetites of the body and not occupied with eating and drinking, even so purify and make holy my heart and my life from aught else save Thy Love, and protect and preserve my soul from self-passions… Thus may the spirit associate with the Fragrances of Holiness and fast from everything else save Thy mention.”
Star of the West, vol. 3, p. 305.
“This is, O my God, the first of the days on which Thou hast bidden Thy loved ones to observe the Fast. I ask of Thee by Thy Self and by him who hath fasted out of love for Thee and for Thy good-pleasure—and not out of self and desire, nor out of fear of Thy wrath—and by Thy most excellent names and august attributes, to purify Thy servants from the love of aught except Thee and to draw them nigh unto the Dawning-Place of the lights of Thy countenance and the Seat of the throne of Thy oneness. Illumine their hearts, O my God, with the light of Thy knowledge and brighten their faces with the rays of the Daystar that shineth from the horizon of Thy Will.”
Bahá’í Prayers, p. 259
“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.”
Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p.13
“And as the sun and moon constitute the brightest and most prominent luminaries in the heavens, similarly in the heaven of the religion of God two shining orbs have been ordained – fasting and prayer… fasting is its sun, prayer, its moon.”
Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 40
“Besides all this, prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and conducive to protection and preservation from tests…”
Baha’i World Faith, p. 368 (Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha p. 683)
“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 purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires.”
10 January 1936, in Baha’i News, March 1936, p. 1