Baha’i faith begins fast
In a nation where we are so used to instant gratification, today marks the first day of the fast for the people of the Baha’i Faith religion. It’s a time in which believers of the Baha’i faith abstain from food, drink and even cigarettes and coffee for the period of sunrise to sundown.
At first, it seems simple — just skip lunch. But for the Baha’is, fasting is much more than skipping a meal for 19 days. The reason for the Baha’i fast is to discipline the soul; it is detachment from material needs in an attempt for spiritual progress.
Baha’is are followers of Baha’u’llah in the same sense that Christians are followers of Jesus Christ. They believe that religion is progressive and that all religions lead to the same God; they just came in different times of history.
In his holy writings, Baha’u’llah said, “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.”
However, for Baha’is and many other religions that fast, fasting is not just about abstaining from food and drink; there is a spiritual fast, as well. Those who fast also abstain from selfish passions, desires and traits that are animalistic in nature. The fast is a time for spiritual purification. The purpose of fasting is to remain holy and become in tune with your personal relationship with God; it is a period of prayer and meditation. Fasting is a symbol and reminder to be devout and faithful to God.
The Baha’i fast is an individual obligation. Baha’is who reach the age of maturity, 15, are required to fast. They fast for 19 days beginning on March 2 and ending March 20. Those who are exempted from fasting include the elderly, women who are pregnant or nursing, the ill and children under the age of 15. Since a Baha’is’ relationship with God is very personal, the fast, too, is private and special. Baha’is are humble and modest when fasting; both are attributes that reflect the spirituality Baha’i’s feel when fasting.
After sundown on the final day of the fast, the Baha’is celebrate their New Year, Naw-Ruz, which is Farsi for New Year. They celebrate with a large feast and fellowship with other Baha’is, along with reading from the holy writings of the Baha’i Faith.
Along with the Baha’i fast, there are other religions that fast too. A lot of Christians are observing Lent right now, and Muslims observe Ramadan in August.
In essence, whether you believe in a God or not, spiritual cleansing is something we all should do, and fasting is a great way to do so.