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Verily, I say, fasting is the supreme remedy and the most great healing for the disease of self and passion. – Baha’u’llah, p. XVII, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting.

This Fast leadeth to the cleansing of the soul from all selfish desires, the acquisition of spiritual attributes, attraction to the breezes of the All-Merciful, and enkindlement with the fire of divine love… Fasting is the cause of the elevation of one’s spiritual station. – Abdu’l-Baha, Ibid., pp. XXVI-XXVII.

In March, millions of Baha’is all around the world will voluntarily stop eating and drinking during the daylight hours for nineteen days in a row. Why?

During the Baha’i Fast, Baha’is abstain from food and drink from sunrise to sunset each day for the entire Baha’i month of Ala, which comprises the nineteen days before the spring equinox. Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, explains that this annual Baha’i 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. Its significance and purpose are, therefore, fundamentally spiritual in character. – Directives from the Guardian, p. 28.

You may not realize it, but most religions have a fasting period sometime during the year—Christians, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Muslims and Jains all practice some variant of an annual fast. Observant Jews fast for six days, especially on Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av; Muslims fast during the daylight hours for 30 days during the lunar month of Ramadan; Catholics fast during Lent and other holy days; different Christian denominations fast individually and voluntarily; Hindus fast at various times of the year; many Buddhist practices include fasting, as well.

why-do-bahais-fast-every-year-4So fasting has been practiced in different forms and times for millennia as part of religious life, but the principle remains the same—fasting symbolizes detachment from the physical world and from the self. Baha’is view fasting as a spiritual exercise, but recently science has shed new light on its significant role in human biology and physiology—another example of the agreement of science and religion, one of the Baha’i primary principles.  

According to recent studies, intermittent fasting has significant health benefits. It promotes optimal physical health by reducing the risk of many chronic illnesses, especially for those who are overweight or obese. Based on the existing evidence from animal studies, fasting has strong effects on health indicators including greater insulin sensitivity, reduced levels of blood pressure, body fat, insulin, glucose, atherogenic lipids, and inflammation. Fasting alleviates disease processes and improves clinical outcomes in disorders such as myocardial infarction, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Fasting, with its general mechanism of triggering adaptive cellular stress responses, results in intensified ability to cope with more severe stress, which prevents disease processes from beginning. Fasting also protects cells from DNA damage, suppresses cell growth and enhances apoptosis of damaged cells—which consequently prevents the formation and growth of cancers. Fasting helps reduce obesity, hypertension, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Researchers have now begun to show that fasting even has the potential to delay aging.

With all these health benefits, is fasting difficult? Those who have fasted know that the body gradually adapts to a new routine, and under normal conditions can cope well with lack of nourishment for twelve hours. But the Baha’i teachings say that fasting may not help the healing process if a person is already ill. In some cases, such as diabetics, it would be harmful to fast:  

…obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God. It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations…Baha’u’llah, The Most Holy Book, p. 134.

Baha’is fast from the age of maturity, which the Baha’i teachings say begins at 15, until the age of 70. Those who are ill, pregnant and nursing mothers, those doing heavy labor, even those travelling for a long time are all exempt from the fast.

Would you like to try fasting during the Baha’i fast this year? It could increase your physical and spiritual health, and give you a new awakening:

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

 

24 Comments

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  • Lubaale Ronald
    Mar 19, 2019
    In reality this period is very special even no individual can fall sick really it's a period of special potency thanks to God that am a Baha'i Alla'u'abha
  • Csaba Kerekes
    Mar 03, 2018
    In reality, what is called diabetes is not one disorder or illness. For long time the type 1 and the type 2 is differentiated. Type 2 can actually be healed (!!!) by medically monitored fasting protocoll, but is not yet recommended, it'll take time and has to go agains a lot of dogmatic thinking, financial interests etc. Type 1 is a very difficult problem when you want to apply a fasting therapy, but in mice experimennt it has worked. In a recent publication it is suggested to further differentiate beween types and subtypes, stating that there is five different variation ...of diabetes.
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  • Pauline Mwila
    Mar 02, 2018
    Thank you for sharing such helpful information, HAPPY Fasting to us.
  • Saniata Darapiza
    Mar 02, 2017
    A great blessing I have gained since I did fasting , aside from the physical health benefits bestowed, is the ability to cope in times of stress, tests or difficulties.
    I am a diabetic but, as of now since I only take medication in the early morn and evening after meals, I try my best to do fasting from food and drink from sunrise to sunset (I hope I could carry on until its end).
  • T G
    Mar 01, 2017
    I must ask what your evidence is for the claims that fasting "...promotes optimal physical health by reducing the risk of many chronic illnesses... greater insulin sensitivity, reduced levels of blood pressure, body fat, insulin, glucose, atherogenic lipids, and inflammation... alleviates disease processes and improves clinical outcomes in disorders such as myocardial infarction, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease..." and so forth? I know of no such studies that come to these conclusions, and in fact a physical fast is not recommended for people who are dealing with certain health conditions.
    • John Douglas Irving
      Mar 10, 2018
      Iain Murray-Ayers Could I have a reference for "It is actually REQUIRED by Baha'i Law that someone with diabetes and other medical conditions NOT physically fast." I have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes since two years ago and have fasted both years, with doctor's consent, with no difference from previous years. Of course, the exemption is made for "those who are ill", but what Baha'i Law is so specific, please?
    • Chetan Phadke
      Mar 02, 2017
      https://news.usc.edu/63669/fasting-triggers-stem-cell-regeneration-of-damaged-old-immune-system/
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1934590914001519/
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26374764
      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26135345
    • Iain Murray-Ayers
      Mar 01, 2017
      I'd say the answer is that because the fast isn't ALWAYS about refraining from eating. The spiritual aspects of fasting are as much or more important.
      For instance, someone with diabetes can still be said to be fasting by keeping all the other relevant concepts of fasting such as the fasting prayers and introspection. It is actually REQUIRED by Baha'i Law that someone with diabetes and other medical conditions NOT physically fast.
      Pretty much the same is true for pregnant woman, breastfeeding women and also those who are menstruating. And those younger than 15 and older than 70. I know ...many women who still fast during menses though and some young people who start fasting before 15 and many older people who fast long after age 70.
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  • Faraneh Carnegie-Hargreaves
    Mar 01, 2017
    Happy to meet another Faraneh! Wonderfully written, thank you!
  • Jocelyn Lee-Luyke
    Mar 01, 2017
    Thank you. Well written.