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One of my readers wrote:

I have been fasting for about five years now. The middle three were very easy, however, this fast there have been heat-waves and the common cold making it more difficult. And then came that time of the month. What suggestions you have for dealing with a broken up fast? I feel like I need to start the fast all over again with four days to go.

I replied:

You’re exempt from fasting in both those situations (b and f)!

Exemption from fasting is granted to:
(a) Travellers

  • Provided the journey exceeds 9 hours.
  • Those travelling on foot, provided the journey exceeds 2 hours.
  • Those who break their journey for less than 19 days.
  • Those who break their journey during the Fast at a place where they are to stay 19 days are exempt from fasting only for the first three days from their arrival.
  • Those who reach home during the Fast must commence fasting from the day of their arrival.

(b) Those who are ill.

(c) Those who are over 70.

(d) Women who are with child.

(e) Women who are nursing.

(f) Women in their courses, provided they perform their ablutions and repeat a specifically revealed verse 95 times a day.

(g) Those who are engaged in heavy labour, who are advised to show respect for the law by using discretion and restraint when availing themselves of the exemption.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

The prayer you can say during your period is described in the Aqdas:

God hath exempted women who are in their courses from obligatory prayer and fasting. Let them, instead, after performance of their ablutions, give praise unto God, repeating ninety-five times between the noon of one day and the next ‘Glorified be God, the Lord of Splendour and Beauty‘. Thus hath it been decreed in the Book, if ye be of them that comprehend.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 23)

If claiming the exemptions isn’t clear enough, try these!

The law of the Fast is ordained for those who are sound and healthy; as to those who are ill or debilitated, this law hath never been nor is now applicable.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

In truth, I say that 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; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 134)

God doesn’t want you to push yourself beyond your limitations:

Some people lay stress on fasting. They affirm that in augmenting the weakness of the body they develop a spiritual sensibility and thus they think to approach God. Weakening one’s self physically does not necessarily contribute to spiritual progress. Humility, kindness, resignation, and all these spiritual attributes emanating from great physical strength are acceptable to God. That an enfeebled man cannot fight is not accounted a virtue. Were physical weakness a virtue the dead would be perfect, for they can do nothing. If a man be just, kind, humble and merciful and his qualities are acquired through the will-power—this is Godlike. A child cannot kill a man; but a Bonaparte can abstain from war, from shedding blood, from devastating countries. A dumb person will not speak ill of any one, a paralyzed hand cannot strike; but a strong arm can refrain from striking. Justice, love and kindness must be the instruments of strength, not of weakness. Exaggerated fasting destroys the divine forces.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Divine Philosophy, p. 98-99)

You don’t need to extend the Fast because of the days you missed.  You’re exempt!

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: Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 9-10)

Vowing to fast (in a month other than the one prescribed for fasting) is permissible. Vows which profit mankind are however preferable in the sight of God.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 38)

God has the power to count you among those who have kept the Fast:

Shouldst Thou regard him who hath broken the Fast as one who hath observed it, such a man would be reckoned among them who from eternity had been keeping the Fast.  And shouldst Thou decree that he who hath observed the Fast hath broken it, that person would be numbered with such as have caused the Robe of Thy Revelation to be stained with dust, and been far removed from the crystal waters of this living Fountain.  (Baha’u’llah, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 261)

You can ask for this, and also to receive the benefit of the virtues for each hour of the Fast:

These are, O my God, the days whereon Thou didst enjoin Thy servants to observe the fast . . . Thou hast endowed every hour of these days with a special virtue, inscrutable to all except Thee, Whose knowledge embraceth all created things. Thou hast, also, assigned unto every soul a portion of this virtue in accordance with the Tablet of Thy decree and the Scriptures of Thine irrevocable judgment.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 143)

For more ideas on what you can do when you’re exempt:

9 Ways you Can Fast When you Can Eat

What’s the Baha’i Fast Like—When You’re Exempt?  

Prayer Requests and Virtues Acquired During the Baha’i Fast

Meditations on the Long Fast Prayer

 What would you add to this question of exemptions?  Post your comments below.