Fasting in Faith
A little while ago, a news station in South Carolina (USA) had a story about a religion of which many people have not yet heard. It was about the Baha’i Faith. Although I was a bit surprised by the coverage, as I listened to the story it made sense that this Faith would be well accepted in South Carolina because of the Baha’i Faith’s main principle of oneness.
I should mention, I am a Baha’i; or I try to be.
On March 2nd every able member of the Baha’i Faith over the age of 15 years began a Fast. The Baha’i Fast occurs during the last month of the Baha’i year. This last month is called `Alá’. In our year there are 19 months composed of 19 days each. The last month is `Alá’, which means “Loftiness”, and the first month (which is coming up in just a couple of days) is “Bahá”, meaning “Splendor.”
Right before the month of `Alá’ are four or five intercalary days, depending on whether or not it’s a leap year in the Gregorian calendar with which the Badi calendar works. This year, for instance, there were five days between the month of Mulk (Dominion) and the current month of `Alá’. The intercalary days are also called the Days of Ha and Ayyam-i-Ha.
Ayyam-i-Ha is a time to prepare for the Fast and it is also a time for gift giving and a more focused intent on service.
The Baha’i day begins at sunset, as the current day ends. As the Fast began on March 2nd, many Baha’is around the world gathered for a Nineteen Day Feast after sunset on March 1st. This is when the Fast actually begins. Before dawn on March 2nd, those who fast typically awaken to nourish their spirits and bodies through prayer and food. Between sunrise and sunset we are to abstain from all food and drink.
The physical portion of the Fast is to remind us of our souls and the soul’s connection and need for closeness to its Creator. Fast is broken at sunset with prayers and food again. Because the Baha’i Faith was born in Persia, many Baha’i communities break the Fast with similar items including hot tea; at least this has been my experience in Italy, Tanzania, and the USA.
The Baha’i New Year
This year the Fast ends on March 20th which means that March 21st marks time for the next Nineteen Day Feast, as well as the Baha’i new year: Naw-Ruz.
On Naw-Ruz most communities have a big party; usually the biggest of the year. There is no required dress to celebrate, as long as what we wear isn’t a cause of ridicule. People do still try to wear festive clothes and share festive foods. The communities that can afford to rent a big ball room or similar space have disc jockeys and other entertainment. Most communities that have children in Baha’i families organize in advance so that the children are a part of the entertainment during the Naw-Ruz party.
I have not yet been to a Naw-Ruz party in South Carolina, so I am looking forward to participating in this year’s festivities! Everyone is welcome there!
If you are a member of a religion, what is something special that you personally like about the religion?
If you aren’t a part of any religion, what do you that makes you feel like you are developing your soul?
If you don’t believe in having a soul, what do you do that makes you feel like you are a part of all of creation?