The Bahá’í Fast
(The Ordinance of)
"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 (obligatory) a spiritual and vital obligation enjoined by Bahá'u'lláh 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-Rúz as a Feast... The traveller, 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, Bahá'u'lláh 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 permissible 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 ordinance 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 in 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 provoke 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 purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. Fasting is symbolic, and a reminder of abstinence from selfish and carnal desires."
Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 27-29.
"Regarding your question concerning the Fast: Travellers are exempt from fasting, but if they want to fast while they are travelling, they are free to do so. You are exempt the whole period of your travel, not just the hours you are in a train or car, etc. If one eats unconsciously during the fasting hours, this is not breaking the Fast as it is an accident. The age limit is 70 years, but if one desires to fast after the age limit is passed, and is strong enough to, one is free to do so. If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the Fast period is over, he can start to fast again and continue until the end. Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose."
Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 29
(Necessary Permission For)
"With reference to your son's request for advice regarding the observance of the Bahá'í Fast; much as the Guardian realizes the difficulty which a believer of his position, attending a military school, will have to encounter if he wishes to strictly conform to the regulations of the Fast, he nevertheless would advise him to make every effort to obtain from the school authorities the necessary permission. In case his request is refused the only alternative for him would be to obey his superior."
Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 27.
The nineteenth month, following immediately on the hospitality of the intercalary days, is the month of the fast. During nineteen days the fast is observed by abstaining from both food and drink from sunrise to sunset. As the month of the fast ends at the March equinox, the fast always falls in the same season, namely, spring in the Northern, and autumn in the Southern, Hemisphere; never in the extreme heart of summer nor in the extreme cold of winter, when hardship would be likely to result. At that season, moreover, the interval between sunrise and sunset is approximately the same all over the habitable portion of the globe, namely, from about 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. The fast is not binding on children and invalids, on travelers, or on those who are too old or too weak (including women who are with child or have babes at the breast).
There is much evidence to show that a periodical fast such as is enjoined by the Bahá'í teachings is beneficial as a measure of physical hygiene, but just as the reality of the Bahá'í fast does not lie in the consumption of physical food, but in the commemoration of God, which is our spiritual food, so the reality of the Bahá'í fast does not consist in abstention from physical food, although that may help in the purification of the body, but in the abstention from the desires and lusts of the flesh, and in severance from all save God. `Abdu'l-Bahá says: --
Fasting is a symbol. Fasting signifies abstinence from lust. Physical fasting is a symbol of that abstinence, and is a reminder; that is, just as a person abstains from physical appetites, he is to abstain from self-appetites and self-desires. But mere abstention from food has no effect on the spirit. It is only a symbol, a reminder. Otherwise it is of no importance. Fasting for this purpose does not mean entire abstinence from food. The golden rule as to food is, do not take too much or too little. Moderation is necessary. There is a sect in India who practice extreme abstinence, and gradually reduce their food until they exist on almost nothing. But their intelligence suffers. A man is not fit to do service for God with brain or body if he is weakened by lack of food. He cannot see clearly. (quoted by Miss E. S. Stevens in Fortnightly Review, June 1911).
-- Esslemont, Baha'u'llah and the New Era, p. 183-184.
Sunrise and Sunset Times
from the U.S. Naval Observatory
Calendars of the World