Inspired
by the
Baha’i Faith
The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith. The official website of the Baha'i Faith is: Bahai.org. The official website of the Baha'is of the United States can be found here: Bahai.us.
GOT IT
The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
How do I become Baha’i?
Spirituality

The Final Days of My (Maybe) Final Fast

Jaellayna Palmer | Mar 20, 2018

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Interested in Other Topics?

We’ve got something for everyone.
Jaellayna Palmer | Mar 20, 2018

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

A friend once told me he looks forward to the Baha’i Fast because, among its many benefits, it causes him to lose five pounds every year.

“Wow! So how much total weight have you lost, after all your years of fasting?” I asked. He replied, “None… It’s the same five pounds every year!”

Admittedly, it was a corny joke—the kind of tease we often call a “gotcha.” I fell for it, and I’ve never forgotten it. Every year since, with a smile, I’ve thought of him losing five pounds during the Fast, regaining it slowly throughout the next year, and then losing it again during the next Fast.

That friend has now passed from this world, and I love that every Fast since then reminds me of him and his occasionally silly sense of humor.

This is just one of many reflections arising in my mind during these last few days of this year’s Fast. I am also pondering the fact that after this year I will be exempted from fasting.

The annual Baha’i Fast was designated by Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, in his book of laws, called The Most Holy Book, which specifies its start date as 19 days before the spring equinox. Baha’u’llah described the practice as beginning at age 15, and as abstaining from food and drink between sunrise and sunset during those 19 days. In this same book he specified exemptions for travelers, those who are ill or engaging in hard labor, and a few other select groups—including those age 70 and older. I am now 69, so next year I will be in that category and will be exempt from fasting.

My Journey In Following God’s Laws

I declared myself a Baha’i in 1980 and have observed the Fast every year since. Although a few times I have been exempt from fasting physically, the Fast has been a constant part of my life for 38 years. Obedience to Baha’u’llah’s laws is a matter of my own conscience. Since no one can force me to observe them, and no one has the right to judge me, my understanding of the Fast and my way of observing it is a reflection of both my spiritual and physical conditions. The Baha’i writings make clear that we are to reflect on our own behavior, not that of others:

Let your thoughts dwell on your own spiritual development and close your eyes to the deficiencies of other souls. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 203.

Action vs. Intention

At any age, any of us can observe the Fast—at least in its spiritual essence if we are not able to physically fast. If I am exempt for some reason, I can still be aware of this time through actions such as eating only when necessary, supporting others who are fasting, devoting more time for prayer and meditation, and limiting my attendance at food-related gatherings during daylight hours. As I think about this last point, I can recall many times I have postponed, adapted or rearranged social activities—as well as my exercise schedule—in respect of the Fast. Shoghi Effendi makes it clear that a similar realignment happens on the spiritual plane:

[The Fast] 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. – Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, pp. 28-29.

It is entirely possible for someone to comply with the Fast by abstaining from food and drink from sunup to sundown for 19 days and yet not fulfill the spirit of the Fast. Likewise, a person with an exemption—whether due to travel, age, or another reason—can fulfill the meaning and purpose of the Fast even if they need to eat or drink during daylight hours. Abdu’l-Baha helps us distinguish between outward actions and their spiritual or inner essence:

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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 70.

At Any Age—Including After 70

As I grow with the years, I am gradually understanding more and more about the relationship between my actions and my intentions. I now realize that, regardless of whether I choose to voluntarily abstain from food and drink after the age of 70, I can always participate in the spiritual essence of the Fast:

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. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 305.

With or without physical nourishment, and regardless of what the calendar or the clock says, I can frequently call to mind beautiful quotations, such as this:

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, quoted in The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting.

Spiritual Growth

Fasting is the cause of awakening man. The heart becomes tender and the spirituality of man increases. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 305.

As I think about reaching this stage of life, I am grateful for being healthy and engaged in daily activity that gives me a sense of purpose. I believe that however my understanding of the Fast evolves, and whatever actions I choose now and in the future, being a Baha’i will continue to present me with never-ending opportunities for spiritual growth, serving others, and exploring the meaning of the words of God. And who knows, along the way, I might even lose five pounds.

You May Also Like

Spirituality

Tapping the Source of the Water of Life

Spirituality

How to Shine Through the Suffering

Spirituality

How Would a Prophet Advise His Sons?


Comments

characters remaining
  • Nita Gandfor
    Mar 9, 2019
    -
    Thank you for this excellent personal insight into the period of fasting. I found it informative and uplifting. I enjoyed your writing style too, building in a humorous component. Thank you.
    • Jaellayna Palmer
      Feb 28, 2020
      -
      Thank you, Nita. I just now (28 Feb 2020) saw your comment from last year, Though you may not see my reply, I still want to acknowledge it. I'm so happy you enjoyed the article and also my writing.
  • Mar 24, 2018
    -
    In the Baha’i reference library, in the synopsis and codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas it is stated that those ‘over 70’ are exempted from fasting. Do we have one more Fast?
    • Jaellayna Palmer
      Mar 24, 2018
      -
      Hi Candyce. As a result of your research in the synoposis & codification, you may have by now also realized that as soon as the day of your 70th birthday passes then you are "over 70" in the sense that you have then completed your 70th year in this physical life. I don't know what people do when their birthdays fall within the 19 days of the Fast, though I suppose the "exemption" would at that point apply. There is so much to learn about all of this!
  • Mar 24, 2018
    -
    I am also 69 and I think back on my years of fasting, the failures and the successes. Will I fast after turning 70? Knowing me, probably not. However I love your offerings of ways to fast, without the actual fasting from food. I thank you for these words that will help guide me next year.
    • Jaellayna Palmer
      Mar 24, 2018
      -
      Thanks for sharing your own story, Candyce. I'm happy these ideas are helpful to you.
  • K'omolo Elvis Otieno Lorry
    Mar 21, 2018
    -
    I really thank God, the God of Bab, the God of Shoghi Effendi ,I Fasted for the first time ,at first I thought it was simple but later i realized it was tricky and had many challenges and temptations, I almost broke my fast mid way but God gave me strength through, am humble befor Thee ,tge fast nourished me spiritually and I had time to communicate to my God,Be blessed
    • Jaellayna Palmer
      Mar 22, 2018
      -
      Thank you for sharing this piece of your own experience with the Fast. You are right in mentioning both challenges and temptation, but that's part of how we learn.
  • Larry Raymond
    Mar 20, 2018
    -
    Hello Jaellayna. I also turn 70 before the next Fast and have been meditating on whether to fast or not. Just read the following from the Kitab-I-Aqdas (Note 20, last paragraph page 173); ‘However, the House of Justice counsels that, in deciding whether to do so or not, the believer should use wisdom and realize that Baha’u’llah has granted these exemptions for good reason’. More to think about.
    • Jaellayna Palmer
      Mar 20, 2018
      -
      Greetings Larry. I love that we are asked to think for ourselves, to respect our maturity, and to recognize our own wisdom. That doesn't make it any easier to think about now, I suppose. But it does sounds like you (and me, too) will know next year what to do. You are right, more to think about. No need for any decisions yet. (thank goodness!)
  • Janice Odell
    Mar 20, 2018
    -
    Once again, there is nourishment in Jaellayna's writing. One of this author's many gifts is her ability to draw important associations between the Writings of the Baha'i Faith and the ordinary aspects of our daily lives. Shedding new light on the Fast, she has delivered valuable insights - and humor - that I will now take with me on what is also the last day of my own last Fast.
    • Jaellayna Palmer
      Mar 20, 2018
      -
      Thank you for these comments, Janice. And it is lovely to realize that we are in this "maybe" final Fast together.
x
x
Connect with Baha’is in your area
Welcome!
What's your name?
Thanks my friend ! We want to connect you with a Baha’i in your area, where would that be?
Thank you so much! How can they best reach you?
To put you in touch with a Baha’i in your area who can answer your questions, we would like to kindly ask for a few details about yourself.
Connect with Baha’is in your area
Connect with Baha’is in your area
Get in touch with the Baha’is in your community.