The Baha’i Fast falls during the month of Ala – the last month of the Baha’i calendar. During these 19 days, Baha’is – with the exception of women who are nursing or pregnant, the elderly, children, the sick, those travelling and those engaged in heavy labour – abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset.
While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
For 19 days, those observing the Fast partake in a rich spiritual experience. The Fast is a time of joy and invigoration of our lives. It is an opportunity that comes once a year for us to take a step back and reconnect with what truly matters to us. It is a period of respite from the daily routines and hectic schedules that so often consume and overwhelm us.
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 not as hard as people might think. In fact, many people – including those who really love their food – look forward to it each year.
The Fast is a time of prayer and of drawing closer to God. The abstention from food and drink is, in itself, a physical practice. However, it is a symbol and reminder of greater spiritual truths. While practising detachment from the physical world and from the desires of our physical beings, we are reminded that we are – in fact – spiritual beings.
Being reminded of our true spiritual reality, it is only natural that we find ourselves longing to strengthen this spiritual identity. It is a reminder to us that we are far more than the clothes we wear, the jobs we have, and the lifestyles we lead. We are reminded of what really matters to us – the things that really make us who we are.
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.
The Fast creates in us feelings of prayerfulness and contemplation. As we pray and meditate more, we are able to recalibrate our lives to find an inner balance.
Shoghi Effendi said, of the Fast:
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.
This, more than the mere abstention from food and drink, is the purpose of the Fast.
A very happy and blessed Fast to all our readers out there who will be observing it! I hope that it is a period of reinvigoration and recuperation for all of you.