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Compiled by Marlene Macke, St Marys, ON, Canada

 

Oxford Dictionary:  “Fast: Abstain from (some kinds of) food as religious observance or in sign of mourning; go without food”   (Break one’s fast = breakfast)

… I humbled my soul with fasting …- Psalms 35:13

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance; for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast.  Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.  But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face; that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee  openly.  –  Matthew 6:16‑18

A story of the afflicted child who was brought to Jesus by the disciples after their vain efforts to cast out from him the spirit which tormented him and of his being healed by Jesus, who said, in reply to a question from the disciples, that “This kind can come forth by nothing but by prayer and fasting”.  –  Mark 9: 7‑29

O ye who believe! Fasting is prescribed to you as it was prescribed to those before you, that ye may (learn) self‑restraint  ‑  The Qur’an, Surih 2:183

Whate’er thou doest, Prince!

Eating or sacrificing, giving gifts,

Praying or fasting, let it all be done

For Me, as Mine. So shalt thou free thyself

From Karmabandh, the chain which holdeth men

To good and evil issue, so shalt come

Safe unto Me‑ when thou art quit of flesh‑

By faith and abdication joined to Me!  –  Hindu Texts, Bhagavad‑Gita, from Chapter IX, Entitled “Rajavidyarajaguhyayog,”  or “The Book of Religion by the Kingly Knowledge and the Kingly Mystery”

Know assuredly that My commandments are the lamps of My living providence among My servants, and the keys of My mercy for My creatures.  –  Baha’u’llah, Kitab‑i‑Aqdas, paragraph 3

We have commanded you to pray and fast from the beginning of maturity; this is ordained by God, your Lord and the Lord of your forefathers.  He has exempted from this those who are weak from illness or age, as a bounty from His presence, and He is the Forgiving, the Generous.  –  Baha’u’llah, Kitab‑i‑Aqdas, paragraph 10

The nineteen day fast is a duty to be observed by all.  All should abstain from eating and drinking from sunrise to sunset.  This fast is  conducive to the spiritual development of the individual.  –  Abdu’l‑Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l‑Baha, Vol 1, p. 57

…prayer and fasting is the cause of awakening and mindfulness and  conducive to protection and preservation from tests.  –  Abdu’l‑Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 368

It 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.  –  Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 233

The fasting period, which lasts nineteen days starting as a rule from the second of March every year and ending on the twentieth of the same month, involves complete abstention from food and drink from sunrise till sunset.  It 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.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 10 January 1936, Baha’i News, March 1936, p. 1

We have enjoined upon you fasting during a brief period, and at its close have designated for you Naw‑Ruz as a feast…The traveller, the ailing, those who are with child or giving suck, are not bound by the fast….Abstain from food and drink, from sunrise to sundown, and beware lest desire deprive you of this grace that is appointed in the Book.  –  Baha’u’llah, Kitab‑i‑Aqdas, paragraph 16

Travellers are exempt from fasting, but if they want to fast while they are travelling, they are free to do so.  You are exempt the whole period of your travel, not just the hours you are in a train or car, etc.  If one eats unconsciously during the fasting hours, this is not breaking the Fast as it is an accident.  The age limit is seventy years, but if one desires to fast after the age limit is passed, and is strong enough to, one is free to do so.  If during the Fast period a person falls ill and is unable to fast, but recovers before the fast period is over, he can start to fast again and continue until the end.   Of course the Fast, as you know, can only be kept during the month set aside for that purpose.  –  Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i News, January 1944, p. 2

..its observance has been enjoined by Baha’u’llah upon all the believers, once they attain the age of fifteen, and until they reach seventy…in the Aqdas, Baha’u’llah permits certain exceptions to this general obligation of fasting, among them are included those who do hard work, such as workers in heavy industries.  But while a universal obligation, the observance of the nineteen‑day fast has been made by Baha’u’llah the sole responsibility of the individual believer.  No Assembly has the right to enforce it on the friends, or to hold anybody responsible for not observing it.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 9 March 1937 Letter to an individual believer

It is difficult for us to do things because they are so very different from what we are used to, not because the thing itself is particularly difficult… no doubt some of the ordinances, like fasting and daily prayer, are had to understand and obey at first…  Baha’u’llah would not have given these things if they would not greatly benefit us…As we obey them we will gradually come to see in ourselves the benefits they confer.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 16 March 1949 Letter to an individual, cited in Fasting: A Baha’i Handbook, p. 26

There are also no obligatory prayers for the Fast.  But there are some  specific ones revealed by Baha’u’llah for that purpose.  –  Shoghi Effendi, 17 October, 1934 Letters to Australia and New Zealand

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.

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…

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.  –  Table Talks of Abdul‑Baha, by Corrinne True.  Cited in Fasting: A Baha’i Handbook, p. 16

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.  –  Abdu’l‑Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l‑Baha, pp. 69‑70

Recommended Reading  on the theme of Fasting:

The Bible

The Qur’an

Baha’u’llah and the New Era by J.E. Esslemont

Fasting: A Baha’i Handbook by Duane L. Herrman