Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Baha'i Fast, Additional Insight, Part IV

The numbering below is arbitrary and has no significance other than for referencing within this site.

Photo © Baha’i International Community

From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha regarding the Fast
1. “Ye had written of the fasting month. Fortunate are ye to have obeyed the commandment of God, and kept this fast during the holy season. For 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.”

2. “The laws of God, such as fasting, obligatory prayer and the like, as well as His counsels regarding virtues, good deeds and proper conduct, must be carried out everywhere to the extent possible, unless some insurmountable obstacle or some great danger presents itself or it runneth counter to the dictates of wisdom. For indolence and laxity hinder the outpourings of love from the clouds of divine mercy, and people will thus remain deprived.”

3. “Thou hast written about the Fast. This is a most weighty matter and thou shouldst exert thine utmost in its observance. It is a fundamental of the Divine Law, and one of the pillars of the religion of God.”

4. “Well is it with you, as you have followed the Law of God and arisen to observe the Fast during these blessed days, for this physical fast is a symbol of the spiritual fast. 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.”
5. “Fasting is the cause of the elevation of one’s spiritual station.”

Shoghi Effendi, regarding the Fast

1. "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."

2. "The fasting period…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."

3. “Those unwarranted practices, in connection with the sacrament of baptism, of communion, of confession of sins, of asceticism, of priestly domination, of elaborate ceremonials, of holy war and of polygamy, have one and all been rigidly suppressed by the Pen of Baha’u’llah; whilst the rigidity and rigor of certain observances, such as fasting, which are necessary to the devotional life of the individual, have been considerably abated.”

National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, 1950

“How fitting was the prelude to this year… our Fast – symbolic of the will to sacrifice and wholly yield the self to God. As we abstained from food and drink, we became deeply conscious of the things for which He [the Bab] forfeited His life…the cherished hopes of men for promised peace, and unity of mankind.

He chose our hearts and asked of us surrender of the ancient hurts, the active fears and failings with which we wound each other and mar the splendid unity we seek in Faith.

Can we find strength and will to cancel out the caustic criticisms, the long-embroidered slights, the outraged pride, the unexplained hostility, the bitterness of ingrown loneliness, the cruel-edged perfection with which we weigh each other? These are the heavy weights which ground our spirits and our prayers.

Then, let us turn our hearts to God and pray with fervour for that sense of love to truly do Him honour, since this alone can change all things and men, because it changes us.”



There's hidden sweetness in the stomach's emptiness.

We are lutes, no more, no less. If the soundbox

is stuffed full of anything, no music.
If the brain and the belly are burning clean
with fasting, every moment a new song comes out of the fire.

The fog clears, and new energy makes you
run up the steps in front of you.
Be emptier and cry like reed instruments cry.

Emptier, write secrets with the reed pen.

When you're full of food and drink, an ugly metal

statue sits where your spirit should. When you fast,

good habits gather like friends who want to help.
Fasting is Solomon's ring. Don't give it to some illusion and lose your power,
but even if you have, if you've lost all will and control,
they come back when you fast, like soldiers appearing
out of the ground, pennants flying above them.

A table descends to your tents,
Jesus' table.
Expect to see it, when you fast, this table

spread with other food, better than the broth of cabbages.


Key to the Sources (Alphabetically)
DG – Directives of the GuardianIOPF – The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting
SWAB – Selected Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
WOB – World Order of Baha’u’llah

From the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha regarding the Fast:

1. SWAB, pp. 69-70; 2. IOPF, Part 2, IV; 3. IOPF, Part 2, XXV; 4. IOPF, Part 2, XXVI; 5. IOPF, Part 2, XXVII

From Shoghi Effendi, regarding the Fast:

1. DG, p.27; 2. DG, pp. 28-29; 3. WOB, p.22

National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States
"Baha’i News," April 1950, p. 2. Written in the year commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the Martyrdom of the Bab.

FASTING – Jalalu’d-Din Rumi (1207-1273 A.D.)

The Essential Rumi, Translations by Coleman Barks, pp. 69-70.

Rumi is often regarded as one of the great Persian Sufi poets. Baha’u’llah quoted him: see, e.g.,
The Seven Valleys and the Four Valleys.