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Every year at this time, Baha’is all around the world voluntarily refrain from eating or drinking during the daylight hours for one entire 19-day Baha’i month. Why?
The Baha’i Fast asks everyone to refrain from food and drink for twelve hours each day—but Abdu’l-Baha explained that the real reason for fasting revolves around the spiritual, not the physical:
…when his holiness Moses went to Mount Tur (Sinai) and there engaged in instituting the Law of God, he fasted forty days. For the purpose of awakening and admonishing the people of Israel, fasting was enjoined upon them.
Likewise, his holiness Christ, in the beginning of instituting the Spiritual Law, the systematizing of the teachings and the arrangement of counsels, for forty days abstained from eating and drinking. In the beginning the disciples and Christians fasted. Later the assemblages of the chief Christians changed fasting into Lenten observances.
Likewise the Qur’an having descended in the month of Ramadan, fasting during that month became a duty.
…Baha’u’llah, when busy with instituting the Divine Teachings and during the days when the Verses [the Word of God] descended continuously, through the great effect of the Verses and the throbbing of the heart, took no food except the least amount.
The purpose is this: In order to follow the Divine Manifestations and for the purpose of admonition and the commemoration of their state, it became incumbent upon the people to fast during those days. For every sincere soul who has a beloved longs to experience that state in which his beloved is. If his beloved is in a state of sorrow, he desires sorrow; if in a state of joy, he desires joy; if in a state of rest, he desires rest; if in a state of trouble, he desires trouble… This is one wisdom of the wisdoms of fasting.
The second wisdom is this: 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.
Third wisdom: Fasting is of two kinds, material and spiritual. The material fasting is abstaining from food or drink, that is, from the appetites of the body. But spiritual, ideal fasting is this, that man abstain from selfish passions, from negligence and from satanic animal traits. Therefore, material fasting is a token of the spiritual fasting. That is: “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 and animal traits. Thus may the spirit associate with the Fragrances of Holiness and fast from everything else save Thy mention.” – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 305.
This powerful example of spiritual devotion and awakening, premised on the sacrificial lives of the prophets themselves, can generate a new level of awareness and love for others in our hearts:
Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion. – Baha’u’llah
These are the days of the Fast. Blessed is the one who through the heat generated by the Fast increaseth his love, and who, with joy and radiance, ariseth to perform worthy deeds. – Baha’u’llah